By CAPA JRC reporter Lillian Zhou
An ILF display (Claire Yu)
The International Leadership Foundation (ILF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of Asian Pacific American youth leaders. They held a luncheon on July 25 at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington DC to start off the day before the evening Scholarship Gala for the 20th anniversary. At the luncheon, several fellows from the foundation’s fellowship program, foundation board members, and service award winners spoke about their experience with the ILF and expressed hopes for another successful year of service.
Michelle Steel (Claire Yu)
Michelle Steel, fellow resident of Orange County, California and self-described “die-hard” Republican, discussed her life events that brought her to her work as a politician. Her father was a diplomat in Japan, but after he passed away, Steel’s mother and two sisters moved to Los Angeles. There, they opened several shops, but Steel’s mother was unfairly taxed and forced to close her shop. Michelle witnessed this injustice and it inspired her to run for a position in the tax committee. She won, and then decided to run for Board of Supervisors of Orange County. Mrs. Steel is now running for Congress.
He Daofeng (Claire Yu).
He Daofeng was the former President of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) starting in 1999. It was the first national independent governing association, and as president Duofeng has increased the revenue from 2.5 million to 90 million dollars. CFPA cultivates self-reliance and supports rural women in China. Daofeng also initiated a microfinance project which became CD Finance, and was awarded the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize for philanthropy. He believes people should be able to use their own efforts to form self-reliance instead of depending on hand-outs from the government, and has directed his efforts his entire life to helping people achieve that.
ILF has a Civic Fellowship program, which allows talented Asian American college students to learn more about policy and improve their leadership skills. The program focuses on civic engagement and civic careers, and offers an eight-week or ten-week internship at any of many federal agencies, scholarships, and many workshops and seminars. Upon completion, every participant receives a 2,000 dollar scholarship. At the luncheon, many fellows offered testimonies of their experience with the program, reviewing what they gained from the unique experience.
Yvonne Wu from the University of Michigan, who interned with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Environmental Justice (Claire Yu).
Anthony Nguyen from the University of Wisconsin, who interned at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Claire Yu).
Alan Zhang from Columbia University, who interned at the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Claire Yu).
After the testimonies, the luncheon guests celebrated the graduation of all fellows. Chiling Tong, Founding President of ILF, congratulated them individually on their journey and success. She also gave awards to several interns at the ILF Headquarters this summer.
Summer interns at ILF awarded by Founding President Chiling Tong (Claire Yu).
Mary Ku, a member of ILF, stated that she thought the organization was very good for students and young people. She felt the event was very successful, and said that since it was her second time coming to the gala, there was improvement every year. She hopes to find more membership for ILF and donate more money to the organization so students can have more life experiences and be more successful in their jobs.
Interview with Mary Ku (Claire Yu).
Interview with Amanda Negron (Claire Yu).
Amanda Negron, the Executive Director of the Hsu Educational Foundation, said she was very proud to support the ILF. She believes young people are the future for government and leadership positions for science, technology, and civics, so training for them- which the ILF offers- is very valuable. Negron said that fellows develop a sense of support and encouragement from their experience which will last a lifetime, as well as the valuable experience of visiting Washington DC. She encourages young Asian American Pacific Islanders to aspire to leadership positions and not let their minority state discourage them from senior roles, and to share the perspective they gain with others.
Interview with Eugenia Henry (Claire Yu).
Eugenia Henry, Chair of the Training Committee in ILF, stated that it is crucial to support the next generation of Asian Americans. Henry said that Asian people in general work very hard, but is upsetting that they need to work harder to show colleagues they can do better, and not just the same.
Interview with Paul Hsu (Claire Yu).
Paul Hsu, Chairman of the ILF and member of the President’s Advisory Commission of Asian Pacific American Affairs, discussed how unbelievable it was that the event was celebrating ILF’s 20th anniversary. He stated, “if we invest in young people’s future and invest enough, they can re-shape the world as leaders of government or business.” He also said that the anniversary was a milestone for ILF, as not many organizations grow and survive 20 years. When asked about how to support future Asian American leaders, he responded, “We have close to 7% of the population in the US. We have a power especially in a close election. We have a pivotal point and a lot of work to do. If we teach people to improve their life, make sure we all have the same benefits, educate people about entrepreneurship, then that will benefit themselves, their family, and the community.”
Interview with Chiling Tong (Claire Yu).
The Founding President of ILF, Chiling Tong, was very happy with the progress ILF has made, saying that the “20th year was an incredible year.” She hoped to educate more people and inspire them, pointing to the different speakers which were invited to speak at the event. Speakers at the luncheon included an elected public official who spoke about public servant life, a philanthropist, and a recent Harvard graduate for the academia point of view, and they all discussed different ways of teaching leadership. Tong added that the fellows intern at federal agencies and in the White House, attend management conferences, and have the opportunity to meet speakers to learn about their career goals. She is very proud to have accomplished such a tremendous amount, and wants to increase outreach and push to a higher potential.
All in all, the luncheon was a wonderful opportunity to learn about what the ILF offers not only for the future Asian American leaders in the fellowship, but for the Asian American community across America and the support a hardworking, dedicated community can offer.
Lillian Zhou is a member of Junior Reporter Club (JRC) of Chinese American Parents Association of Montgomery County. JRC consists of 15 middle and high school students bringing news to the Asian American immigrant community. Read their blog at https://capajrc.wordpress.com/ or subscribe to their YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA0gylW1ZCcgDvDiLAyObbA.