Washington, D.C. (Sept. 17, 2010) – The White House Initiative On Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders welcomed newly appointed Advisory Commission members in a Tuesday ceremony. More than a dozen new members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were sworn in at the Congressional Auditorium and Atrium of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The event was officiated by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communications & Outreach, which overseas the White House Initiative on AAPIs.
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair and U.S. Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15) joined community leaders from around the country in honoring the new Commissioners on Capitol Hill.
The President’s Advisory Commission was re-established by executive order on Oct. 14, 2009. The Commission is charged with working to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased access to, and participation in, Federal programs in which they may be underserved, by providing advice to President Obama and the co-chairs of the White House Initiative, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
Ceremony participants included Kiran Ahuja, director, White House Initiative on AAPIs and Daphne Kwok, chair, President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs.
The new Commissioners include:
• Hines Ward, professional football player, Pittsburgh Steelers
• Sefa Aina, director, Pomona College Asian American Resource Center
• Amardeep Singh, co-founder, the Sikh Coalition
• Debra T. Cabrera, faculty member, St. John’s School
• Kamuela J. N. Enos, community resource development director, MA`O Organic Farms
• Frances Eneski Francis, partner, Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP
• Farooq Kathwari, chairman and CEO, Ethan Allen Interiors
• Hyeok Kim, executive director, InterIm Community Development Association
• Ramey Ko, associate judge, City of Austin Municipal Court
• Rozita Villanueva Lee, national vice chair, National Federation of Filipino American Associations
• Sunil Puri, president, First Rockford Group, Inc.
• Unmi Song, executive director, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
• Dilawar A. Syed, president and CEO, Yonja Media Group
• Kampha Thephavong, physician, Veterans Affairs Hospital, Fresno, Calif.
• Doua Thor, executive director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
• Hector L. Vargas, Jr., executive director, Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
Sefa Aina is the Director of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) at Pomona College. Prior to coming to Pomona, Mr. Aina worked at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center as a counselor, organizational advisor and instructor. He’s also a founding member of Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER), which does tutoring and mentoring for Pacific Islander youth in the Carson, Long Beach and Inglewood areas of Los Angeles. He’s a founding member of the National Pacific Islander Educators Network (NPIEN) and Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC). Mr. Aina graduated from UCLA with a BA in History and is currently starting the Masters program in Asian American Studies also at UCLA.
Debra T. Cabrera, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Debra T. Cabrera is currently a social science faculty member at St. John’s School located in Tumon, Guam. From 2008-2009, Dr. Cabrera was Dean of Academic Programs and Services at the Northern Marianas College in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Prior to that, she served many years as a faculty member at the college, earning recognition for her teaching in the social sciences. She has been active in community organizations, namely the Northern Mariana Islands Council for the Humanities, where she served as the board chair. Dr. Cabrera holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, an M.A. in Sociology from Ohio University, and a B.A. in Sociology from Washington State University.
Kamuela J. N. Enos, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Kamuela Enos is currently the Director of Community Resource Development at MA`O Organic Farms, where he works with low income communities to combat major health issues and promote sustainable agriculture. He worked previously at Empower Oahu on economic and community development initiatives and with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, where he served as a research assistant in the Office of Youth Services Strategic Planning Process. He is a Director of the Hawaii Rural Development Council. Mr. Enos holds a B.A in Hawaiian Studies and a M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.
Frances Eneski Francis, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Frances E. Francis is currently a partner with Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP, a Washington DC law firm specializing in energy, telecommunications, and regulatory matters. Ms. Francis has primarily worked in the fields of hydroelectric regulation, nuclear decommissioning, and electric rate regulation and contract negotiations. She has also been a visiting professor at George Washington University Law School, an attorney with the Federal Power Commission, and a consultant for the Energy Policy Project and the New England River Basin Commission. Ms. Francis holds a B.A. from Dickinson College, an LLB from Yale Law School, and an M.P.A. from Harvard University.
Farooq Kathwari, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Farooq Kathwari is the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ethan Allen Interiors. He has been President of the company since 1985, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer since 1988. Mr. Kathwari serves on many non-for-profit organizations including the chair of the Kashmir Study Group; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a director of the International Rescue Committee, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University; a director and former chairman of Refugees International; and a director and former chairman of the National Retail Federation. He holds a B.A. degree in English Literature and Political Science from Kashmir University, an M.B.A. in International Marketing from New York University, and also holds two honorary doctorate degrees.
Hyeok Kim, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Hyeok Kim is currently Executive Director of InterIm Community Development Association, a nonprofit community development agency that works to preserve and revitalize Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, and which advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-wage residents and small businesses in the broader Asian and Pacific Islander community in the Puget Sound region. From 1999 to 2008, Ms. Kim worked for the Washington State Legislature, first as a Legislative Assistant to State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and then as a policy analyst for the House Democratic Caucus researching and analyzing child welfare, human services, and affordable housing issues. She has also worked as a lobbyist for the Children’s Alliance, a statewide children’s advocacy organization and for the Children’s Administration in Washington. Ms. Kim is a 2010 Marshall Memorial Fellow, as well as a 2010-2011 Fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Children & Family Fellowship program. Ms. Kim holds a B.A. from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Ramey Ko, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Ramey Ko is currently Associate Judge of the City of Austin Municipal Court. Before being appointed a judge by the Austin City Council in January 2010, Judge Ko was an attorney at the Texas Advocacy Project, a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Prior to his position with the Texas Advocacy Project, Judge Ko was an Equal Justice Works Fellow with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. and focused on direct representation, education, and outreach related to housing issues faced by survivors of domestic violence. Judge Ko is an Advisory Board Member of the Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce and serves on the City of Austin Public Safety Commission. Judge Ko holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago.
Rozita Villanueva Lee, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Rozita Lee is currently the National Vice Chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations. From 1991 to 2010, she was the owner of RVL, Inc., a Polynesian/Hawaiian Entertainment company. Previously, she served as Vice-President of the Nevada Economic Development Company, as special assistant to former Nevada Governor Bob Miller, and as an administrator of the Diversity Training Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). From 1981 to 1983, she produced and hosted a television program called SPECTRUM for PBS Television Channel 10 KLVX TV featuring various ethnic groups in Las Vegas. She was the founding Chairwoman of the Board for the Asian Chamber of Commerce and President of the Las Vegas Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.
Sunil Puri, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Sunil Puri is the President and sole owner of First Rockford Group, Inc., a real estate development firm he founded in 1984. He also sits on a number of boards including the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and the Rockford College Board of Trustees. Mr. Puri holds a B.S. in Accounting from Rockford College. He has also pursued graduate work at Rockford College, London Business School, as well as continuing executive courses at Harvard Business School.
Amardeep Singh, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Amardeep Singh is the co-founder and presently the Director of Programs at the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization. Prior to joining the Sikh Coalition in 2002, Mr.Singh worked as a Researcher in the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch (HRW). While at HRW, he authored its report, “We Are Not the Enemy: Hate Crimes Against Arabs, Muslims, and Those Perceived to be Arab or Muslim after September 11.” Mr. Singh was also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race where he taught a course on the intersection of ethnic identity and the law. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the South Asian Bar Association of New York. Mr. Singh holds a B.A. from Rutgers University and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Unmi Song, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Unmi Song is Executive Director of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, a private foundation that awards $8 million in grants annually to nonprofits serving low-income communities in Chicago with a focus on Arts Education, Education, Employment, and Health. Prior to joining the Fry Foundation in 2003, Ms. Song handled employment program grantmaking, which covered job training and welfare policy issues, at the Joyce Foundation. Before she moved into the nonprofit sector, Ms. Song was vice president of Bankers Trust Company and held positions at Citicorp Investment Bank in New York City, at the First National Bank of Chicago and at Gold Star Tele-Electric Company in Seoul, South Korea. Ms. Song holds a B.A. and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Dilawar A. Syed, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Dilawar A. Syed is President and CEO of Yonja Media Group, an emerging markets internet company. Prior to joining Yonja Media, Mr. Syed was head of business strategy and operations in the Platform division at Yahoo!. Mr. Syed was President of a non-profit entrepreneurship organization, OPEN Silicon Valley, and currently serves on the steering committee of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education. Mr. Syed holds an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin.
Khampha Thephavong, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Dr. Khampha Thephavong is currently a primary care physician at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Fresno, California. Dr. Thephavong also serves on the Board of the Lao-American Advancement Center. Dr. Thephavong holds a BSN degree from the California State University of Fresno and a D.O. degree from the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Doua Thor, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Doua Thor is the Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), a national nonprofit organization advancing the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans through leadership development, capacity building, and community empowerment. Formerly she was a New Voices Fellow with Hmong National Development, Inc. (HND). Currently, she serves on the board of the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and the Red Cross National Diversity Advisory Council. Ms. Thor holds an undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and a graduate degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work with a concentration in social policy and evaluation.
Hector L. Vargas, Jr., Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Hector Vargas Jr. is Executive Director of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), a non-profit association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) healthcare professionals working for equality in healthcare for LGBT people and healthcare providers. From 2001 until earlier this year, Mr. Vargas worked at Lambda Legal, first as Southern Regional Director and later as Deputy Director of the Education and Public Affairs Department, where he played key leadership roles in the organization’s education and communication strategies. Prior to joining Lambda Legal, he also worked at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Ethics Division and Equal Justice Works (formerly the National Association for Public Interest Law). Mr. Vargas holds a J.D. and B.A. from the University of Georgia.
Hines Ward, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Hines Ward is a professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was voted MVP of Super Bowl XL. Born to a Korean mother and an African American father, he has long been an advocate for biracial youths. He is actively involved in various philanthropic initiatives, including starting his own foundation, the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation, which seeks to help mixed-race children suffering from discrimination.
Admiral John B. Nathman, USN (Ret), Appointee for Member, Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy
Admiral John B. Nathman is a Distinguished Fellow and Member of the Military Advisory Board for the CNA Corporation. He retired from the U. S. Navy in 2007 as Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces. Admiral Nathman served for 37 years and held many high ranking positions including Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Commander, Naval Air Forces; Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements; and Commander, Battle Force Fifty in the Persian Gulf. His personal decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star with Combat V. He serves on the board of directors for the Custiss Wright Corporation and the Strategic Advisory Board for Boeing Defense, Space and Security. Admiral Nathman received his MS in aero engineering in 1972, graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy in 1970, and is a distinguished graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School.
Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, USMC (Ret), Appointee for Member, Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy
Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen is a veteran fighter pilot who served 38 years in the United States Marine Corps. In 1952 he became the first African-American pilot in the history of the Corps and in 1978 the first African-American Brigadier General. General Petersen served combat tours in Korea and Vietnam and held command positions at all levels of Marine Corps aviation, commanding a Marine fighter Squadron, Marine Aircraft Group and Marine Aircraft Wing. He retired in 1988 as Commander, Marine Corps Combat and Development Command, Quantico, Virginia and as senior ranking aviator in the U.S. Naval Service with the respective titles of “Silver Hawk” (USMC) and “Grey Eagle” (USN). After retirement from the military, General Petersen served as Corporate Vice President of the E.I. DuPont Company, managing the company’s international capital assets. He currently serves as Chairman Emeritus on the National Marrow Donor Board and Director Emeritus on the Education Credit and Management Corp. In 2009 General Petersen was appointed by the Secretary of Defense to serve on the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. He is a graduate of the National War College and received his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from George Washington University.