From left, Kao Ly Ilean Her, executive director, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, Keynote speaker Patrick Geraghty, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and CAPM Chair Mukhtar Thakur.
BROOKLYN CENTER (May 13, 2011) – The State Council on Asian Pacific Americans honored three individuals at its Heritage Month Banquet and Community Leadership Awards Dinner last Friday at Earl Brown Heritage Center.
The event was hosted by CAPM Chair Mukhtar Thakur and Executive Director Kao Ly Ilean Her. The 2011 awardees were Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvon for Excellence in Education; Ms. Bounxou Chanthraphone for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; and Mr. Hung D. Phung for Community Leadership and Humanitarianism.
The CAPM Banquet emcee was Mary M. Tan, the Communications Coordinator for the City of Brooklyn Park. She was present with her father, Dr. Frits Tan, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.
The Keynote speaker was Patrick Geraghty, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He is responsible for the strategy and operations of the state’s largest health plan, serving 2.7 million members, with a full scope of health plan products and services.
Geraghty began by addressing the values and ethics that draw us back to our roots, our parents, and the importance of recognizing them for shaping us into what we are today. His own parents, now in their 80s, were working professionals and very active in their communities.
“Those are the people that set the examples that I carry with me I my life,” he said.
Geraghty praised the work of BC&BS Foundation in helping the company do the right things in the community. He said that corporate America is an opportunity to change things from within by using a structure to the benefit of everyone.
He said the past 30 years has been an opportunity to apply his perspective to a career that is dedicated to the community good. Involvement is not just about handing out checks, he said, it is about doing things.
“You have to take action,” he added.
Geraghty’s career meant relocating almost annually over two decades. He stayed connected by joining the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as a way to impact young lives wherever he was living and working. He also got involved with issues such as healthcare for the homeless.
While working in New Jersey, Geraghty helped organize the American Conference on Diversity. He said New Jersey is among the most integrated and diverse places in the world, yet, they started on the integration curve much later than is Minnesota in the present.
He said that if the right infrastructure is not in place early on then there would be more conflict. It is about creating a community that reaches out and is inclusive, he added.
As the BC&BS board chair, Geraghty said one focus it to reintroduce programs he initiated in New Jersey on cultural competency to healthcare professionals.
“So they understood that they were dealing with people that were coming from very different backgrounds and you couldn’t just treat everyone the same way,” he said. “You needed to understand where they were coming from in order to do the best that you could do for each of your patients.”
Reviving a company that lost $102 million when he took over in 2008, Geraghty said the organization remains focused on the quality and cost of healthcare. He concluded by saying smoking and obesity are the central issues to all of healthcare. He said no working health plan or legislation could do anything on its own without addressing the two priority issues that lead to all kinds of problems later in life.
With two Lao leaders being honored at the banquet it seemed fitting to have the cultural entertainment from the Lao Assistance Center Dancers. Manager and choreographer Lada Chanthraphone said the dancers performed “Flon Grool Lao Gil-Sao,” a Lao folk dance.
The dancers include (girls) Sue Prathoumthong, Janet Phetsavhone and Xoun Phetchamphone, and (boys) Khammay Khamsot, Phet Daoheuang and Gary Saenvilay. They were followed by the Youth Club of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, in performing some contemporary hip hop dancing. The dancers were from a larger CAPM Youth group that served as volunteers to put the event together with CAPM staff.
Lada is also the daughter of Lifetime Achievement in the Arts recipient Bounxou Chanthraphone, who accepted her award as an opportunity to thank the many people in her life that have inspired her in her work, in her faith and for this great honor.
Chanthraphone, Brooklyn Park, was a teacher in Laos and also learned Lao weaving from her mother and grandmother in her Savannakhet home in the Central region of Laos. She continued to teach weaving along with her nonprofit social services work since coming to Minnesota with her daughter Ladda in 1982.
She was present with Margaret Miller, director of The Textile Center; and Julie Gordon Dalgleish, president, Arts Development Associates in Minneapolis, who nominated and supported the award.
In reflection upon receiving his award, Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvon said his work is more important than putting food on the table and a roof over his head.
“I do what I do because I want to inspire my kids and be a role mode to them,” he said.
Nhouyvanisvon, of Minnetonka, is recognized for community work in the area of education. He is currently the President and Co-founder of Naiku, Inc., an Inver Grove Heights-based company that brings innovative assessment tools to the education market.
Nhouyvanisvon said the award is an opportunity for his own children to see that the importance of doing hard work and community good may seem difficult and thankless now, but that someday others will see the value in what they do and recognize them for their efforts.
He went on to talk about disparities in K-12 education and the importance of helping the next generation develop without the model minority myth that has curtailed support to where it is needed most with new American students.
Mr. Hung D. Phung received the award for Community Leadership. He was nominated in part for his humanitarian work after escaping communist Vietnam himself in the early 1980s and spending a year in refugee camps before making his way to Minnesota.
Phung worked at Family Children Services while earning a Bachelor’s Degree at University of Minnesota in 1989. He went on to work for Wilder Foundation and Lutheran Social Services before returning to the refugee camps to as a counselor in Hong Kong with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
He coordinated vocational training programs and trained instructors in developing vocational training programs for refugees. Today he continues working with Bloomington Public Schools and earned his Master’s Degree in Education with a focus on guidance counseling from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls in 2001.
Phung quoted Mark Twain in saying, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the and the blind can see.”
“That is the language that anybody can understand,” said Phung.
Phung, who was present with his spouse, Anh Phung, and his two daughters, Vy and Vân, was also quoted author Albert Pine in saying, “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Dignitaries present for the event included State Representative Joe Mullery (DFL-58A); Saint Paul Public School Board Member Kazoua Kong Thao; and former Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III.
Humphrey was present in part for his recently having accepted the Korean government’s invitation to serve as the Honorable Counsel General of Korea in Minnesota.
Daniel Ahn, president, Korean Association of Minnesota, along with the Federation of Korean Associations representing 2.5 million Koreans, and the Midwest Korean Associations, was present with Kim Sin, a University of Minnesota administrator; Insung Oh, publisher and editor of The Korean Press; and Grace Lee, founder of the Korean Service Center.