The one about leadership
In less than 24 hours, I will be taking the helm as President of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (BC). This is a day that I once imagined over 10 years ago as a law student. 10 years later, here I am.
The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers is the largest equity-seeking organization in BC with over 480 members across all areas of law. Our mission is to promote equity, justice and opportunity for all Asian Canadian legal professionals and the broader community.
I’m excited to continue the work of our past presidents and lead the next generation of leaders in FACL BC. As the first president of Vietnamese descent, I also look forward to being a role model for the next generation of Vietnamese lawyers and making our community even stronger.
Dad, I wish you were around for me to share the good news, but I’m sure you’re smiling at me wherever you are.
These are my opening remarks.
Today is a day that I thought about over 10 years ago.
10 years ago, I was starting my first year of law school at Queens. But instead of feeling excited, I felt like an outsider for the first time. But joining FACL changed my life and gave me a place of belonging. Let me tell you why.
It was clear that I was different from my classmates. I did not attend any fancy prep schools, I did not grow up playing golf, and I did not have any family members who were lawyers. I even looked different. In my incoming class of 180 students, less than 10% of us were Asian.
“Work hard and you’ll succeed” my mom would always tell me. This worked for the most part, but when I started law school, I felt like I did not belong.
It wasn’t until I attended my first FACL event that things started to change. I saw people who looked like me. I met associates, I met partners, and I even met a few judges (which was confusing to me because the only judges that I saw on TV were white).
More importantly, I felt like I finally belonged. People did not care that I had no legal connections. They did not care if I’d rather drink bubble tea than whiskey or eat banh mi instead of overpriced calamari.
This gave me the confidence that I could be a successful lawyer too. This is a feeling that I’ll never forget. I remember listening to the president make his opening remarks and I remember thinking … one day, that could be me.
10 years later, here we are.
I’ve been reflecting upon what makes us different from other organizations. To me, FACL is more than just a legal organization. FACL is family. Like family, we support each other, we advocate for each other and we are a place of belonging.
These past few years have shown us the extent of racism in our society. As some of you know, I experienced my own hate crime and it opened my eyes to the depth of discrimination in our society.
We are at a unique moment in history where have a social license to advocate for changes that will alter the lives of future generations to come. Being Asian is now … cool? I am also a new father and my dream is that when my daughter grows up and for some reason, decides to be a lawyer, she doesn’t have to face the same barriers as I did.
In closing, I’m excited to lead us into this new stage of our growth. I’m excited to develop our next generation of leaders. I’m excited to eventually meet that law student who is here today listening to this speech and finally feels like they belong somewhere.
And maybe, just maybe, they too could be FACL BC’s next president.
The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (British Columbia) Society is a diverse coalition of Asian Canadian legal professionals working to promote equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian Canadian legal professionals and the broader community.
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