May 29, 2013, Mayor of Bellevue Conrad Lee visited Bellevue College to present to students in N-201 as part of this years recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The Asian Student Association helped with the organization of events for this years commemoration.
Lee’s visit this week is significant as he is Bellevue’s first Asian-American mayor. Lee immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in 1958, moved to Washington state in 1967 to work for Boeing, has served on the Bellevue City Council since 1994, served as deputy mayor in 2010 and 2011 and was elected mayor in 2012.
Lee’s message to students was simple: “You have to have a dream, you have to have your own dream.” In order to achieve these dreams, Lee stressed the importance of a hard work ethic, persistence, an individual’s civic duty and community involvement.
Lee iterated to students that in order to be a part of the legislation that governs their lives, they must be involved and know the “rules of the game” and then stay involved so as to know when the policies are changing.
“Politics is where policies are made, rules are made, the games of the rules are made and everything under the sun in this country is governed by rules, because we are a country of laws,” said Lee. “The thing that makes the United States great is you can actually change the rules…in many other countries in the world you cannot. Political freedom is the foundation of what makes this country great.”
Lee noted how in several parts of the world, the rules that govern individuals are often set against them and that in those places hard work doesn’t lead to success. But in the United States, everyone can work hard and succeed, and if the rules are not in your favor then they can be changed. Vice President of the Asian Student Association Alvin Loong notes the low number of Asian Americans in the Bellevue community that hold high offices like mayorship. “The purpose of [the ASA] bringing people like Mayor Lee is to highlight that you can make a difference…regardless of where you come from and where you’re going you can achieve big goals in life and you can make a difference in your life and in your community,” said Loong.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was first recognized by Congress in 1978 during the first week of May. The date corresponded with the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America on May 7, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress permanently recognized and expanded the commemoration to include all of May.