DALLAS (Aug. 10, 2015) – Asian American leaders gathered together Saturday to share their motivating personal stories to success at Against The Grain Productions’ 4th Annual Groundbreakers Speak Event during the National Association of Asian American Professionals National Convention at the Hilton Anatole. In TED-inspired presentations, question-and-answer lightning round and round robin-style intimate audience discussions, a record 200 attendees from the Convention and the Dallas community listened to each speaker’s individual takes on the Convention’s theme “Resilience: Power of the Asian Leader.” NAAAP President Fabian De Rozario opened with encouraging remarks along with 2014 Groundbreakers panelist, Partner at Ernst & Young, ATG Ambassador and previous NAAAP 100 winner Thear Sy Suzuki, whose comment on courage as a key trait of great leaders rang true throughout the afternoon.
- Quan Phung, television producer, President of Slingshot Global Media and a self-proclaimed “TV junkie,” encouraged fellow Asian Americans to stand up and speak out, to be a beacon for other Asian Americans to follow from a political perspective whenever possible. Ever the visual storyteller, he announced an exciting new television project involving Keanu Reeves, who will play a 50-year-old assassin going through his mid-life crisis and exploring his dual identity as an Asian American.
- Lifestyle expert and television personality Tiffany Hendra spoke on having a purpose-driven life, sharing how she overcame personal adversity as a rape victim during her years in Hollywood to eventually heed her calling to inspire and enrich the lives of other women around the world. Her own parents’, at the time, scandalous mixed-race relationship, Hendra’s personal adversity and unique look, showed her to embrace her differences and find strength in her weaknesses.
Being part of the 4th Annual Groundbreakers Speak gave opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and share my truth. For that, I am truly grateful. All of the panelists left an impression on my heart! Tammy Lee- You are an extraordinary woman with all you’re doing through ATG. I’m looking forward to being part of Fashion For A Passion in November! – Tiffany Hendra
- Dallas-based singer-songwriter Larry g(EE) presented an entertaining perspective of how following his dream was the only option for a young Filipino man in an unforgiving industry. He touted the incredible support of his physician father, who was present in the audience, for inspiring him to work hard and to never give up. He surprised the audience with one of his latest songs that got the audience dancing and clapping as well as a birthday tribute to one of his fellow panelists.
It was an inspiring experience to be a part of. It made me feel proud to be a young Asian American still chasing his dream. – Larry g(EE)
- Caren Lock, whose career in law eventually led her to become a lobbyist for TIAA-Cref and to found the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Orchid Giving Circle, which helps fund Asian American nonprofits in North Texas, described her rules for engagement: stand by your convictions, be scared to challenge yourself further and give back to the community that has lifted you up along the way. With a growing Asian American population present today, she encouraged everyone to get involved and “get a seat at the table.”
Groundbreaker Speaks 2015 was truly inspirational! After hearing my fellow panelist share their journeys, I want to push myself to do more for the Asian American community. – Caren Lock
- Marketing Executive and Chief Strategy Officer at RELEVANTS in New York City Ben Smithee celebrated his 30th birthday with a special serenade by the audience led by Larry g(EE). The young leader praised his “three mothers and fathers” for bringing him to where he is today: His selfless Korean biological parents who gave him a chance for a better life; his adopted parents, for showing him love and diversity; and his foster mom and spiritual father God, for providing love during the first critical few months of life and for his faith.
- Tears were shed as child advocate, blogger and Founder of Color Me SAFE Gauthami Vemula recounted her personal story of abuse and victimization. Overcoming the personal shame and public humiliation that she expected within the Indian community upon sharing her story, Vemula went on to seek justice for others and used her healing experience to heal others. Her incredible support system of family and friends, especially her parents who defy community conventions, gave her the courage and resilience to realize her calling.
- Phil Yu proved that he was not as angry as his moniker and blog of the same name “Angry Asian Man” might presume. Inspired during his formative college years to politicize and bring meaning to the Asian American identity, he started his blog 15 years ago to connect, empower and challenge Asian Americans to take action and speak out as he has.
Vulnerability is strength and it inspires. The panelists turned their stories of shame and struggle into passion, purpose and courage to help others. This is what leadership is, it is a decision and a choice to look after one another, not a position. – Thear Sy Suzuki
This program was simply inspirational! The speakers featured demonstrated how leading their lives with resilience led to the positive impact they’ve had in their communities. – Fabian De Rozario