By YI WU
AAP staff intern
RICHFIELD, Minn. (September 25, 2010) – The Chinese American Academic & Professional Association in Minnesota held its 19th conference Saturday at Jun Bo Restaurant. More than 90 people attended the daylong event on theme, “Rising Above Uncertain Times”, which included speakers from in and outside of the Chinese community, as a way of mainstreaming the conference in a bridge effort to benefit new immigrant members.
The keynote address, “A Life with Few Options”, was delivered by Kao Kalia Yang, the Hmong American author whose first book, “The Latehomecomer: a Hmong family memoir”, won the 2009 Minnesota Book Award for Best Memoir, and Readers Choice, the only book to ever win twice in the same year.
Yang shared the story of her family’s journey from Laos to Minnesota with poetic eloquence that illustrated the struggles of a person, a family and a people. She explained the difference of being a spokesperson and being a voice for a community.
Her talk was full of colorful examples of the difficulties of living in poverty as a child whether in the camps of Laos or in substandard housing in St. Paul. She talked about living two lives with the cultural expectations of her family and of her life at school and the difficulty of taking part in the activities of her peers because of her responsibilities at home.
The hardships may have been heard before but it was the way in which Yang weaved her story together with the words of her father, mother and her late grandmother – that seemed to put everything in perspective wherever she was in her young life – finding the best from the worse and showing that everything has its purpose and its place.
“We become who we are because of the hard things not the easy things,” she added.
Yang would graduate from Carleton College and then earn her MFA at Columbia University in New York City. She has taught at several area universities and it currently a writer-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“What you said has really touched my heart,” said one guest during the discussion period. “I hope that you can continue to write – to inspire people.”
The guest said many participants have their own unique immigrant experience or about life as Chinese Americans and encouraged them to start writing down these stories and experiences as Yang did instead of just letting them die.
Having Yang keynote the event was the idea of Lynn Rezania, president, CAAPAM, who said she was impressed with an earlier speaking event and thought it relevant for reaching more young membership with stories of other Asian refugees and immigrants.
Rezania herself came from Taiwan as a young student to North Dakota State University and returned to Taiwan with a degree in engineering. She went on to earn a doctorate and returned to Minnesota again to marry a schoolmate.
Paul J. Gam of St. Jude Medical Corporation, spoke on the conference theme, “Uncertainty Here – Opportunities There: Looking at China from a Medical Technology Perspective.”
As the vice president of International Development at a Fortune 500 medical technology company based in St. Paul, Gam spoke with depth and authority in analyzing China’s topics of a booming economy, declining health conditions, inexpensive labor, an abundance of engineers and scientists, and growing support from government toward its emergency of domestic med-tech industry.
The questions and comments from participants went on much longer that Gam’s thought provoking lecture some who were hesitant to regard China as one big market.
Gam said that the demand for medical technology in China is growing especially as the annual income for the average family is rising. He said this demand has meant billions in sales for American firms and much of that in Minnesota with heart stints and other lifesaving medical devices.
The Chinese government is helping its domestic medical technology firms take a bigger share but Gam said demand is still exceeding supply – emphasizing the rich opportunities for opportunities in China.
Two other informative speakers included Jon Pojasek, a personal trainer life coach and motivational speaker who is also a Polish immigrant; and Dr. Gary Kiekhoefer, the senior Doctor of Chiropractic and the owner of Kiekhoefer Chiropractic.
In his speech “Make Your Heart Smile”, Pojasek shared his passion, experience and the way to susceptible strategy to help train and condition oneself in order to live life to the fullest. He was keen on taking personal responsibility and not allowing youth to be given excuses for their actions or performance.
Dr. Kiekhoefer’s talk on “Knowing Chiropractic Care” offered an overview of the philosophy and science of chiropractic and how its true value helped it through a struggle to fit into the wellness paradigm of primary care. He also provided a basic understanding of the spine and how alignment issues can impact the nervous system and overall health.
“The diversity presentations give me a chance to hear out side the box,” said Lawrence Sin, a participant.
After a delicious dinner, incoming CAAPAM President Jack Tsai provided an organization overview along with his trademark humor. He asked questions of the audience based on the lectures and presentations to award prizes.
According to John Huang, the founding president of CAAPAM, the organization works for is pure academic curiosities that has attracted and maintained its membership.
Outgoing President Lynn Rezania said that many of the original members have enjoyed successful professional careers and are now nearing retirement. The early group include many Taiwanese with the main group now of mostly mainland Chinese.
Rezania said the goals for the coming year include working on recruiting young professionals and students along with community outreach and the annual summer picnic and fall conference.
For more information on CAAPAM email [email protected]