A Catalyst for Self-Discovery

By Andrew Hong

It was during 10th grade Chemistry that I first contemplated the question of my racial identity.

As many of you may know, in chemistry and in real life, there is a form of matter called a mixture, and another called a compound. Both are products of a combination of substances or elements, and to many laypersons (e.g., 15-year-old Andrew Hong), the two types of matter can often appear identical. The key distinction, however, is that while a mixture is a physical combination where each participating material still has its original properties, a compound is a chemical combination where the participating materials go through a chemical reaction and become an entirely different substance.

Exactly one decade ago, I learned this in my high school in Severna Park. Severna Park is a Maryland township snuggled nicely in-between Annapolis and Baltimore. It was and still is a cozy, fairly affluent town where families take their sailboats out into the Chesapeake-destined Severn River, neighbors and strangers alike wave to each other in aisles of local grocery stores, the high school’s half-suited lacrosse team livens a Subway after a game, and the 7-11 refuses to house a lottery machine because of the values of the community it serves.

The diversity of our high school’s student body closely resembled the diversity of the overall community: 85-90% white, 4-5% black, 2-3% Asian, 2-3% Hispanic, etc. Needless to say, I was part of a minority; but I was fortunate enough to be a minority in a community where my ethnicity was not only unproblematic, but actually accepted. And so for many years, the question of my identity seemed quite simple: At school, I was American; and at home and at my Korean church, I was Korean. Sometimes, I liked eating hamburgers, and other times, I liked eating kimchi; and altogether, I saw myself as simply the combination of two halves.

Read More

July Closing

By Andrew Hong

Summer vacation is a truly unique time. It is a time after one thing ends, but before another begins. It is a time when lowered personal priorities can become actual priorities again, and when some perspectives are reinforced while other perspectives can be realigned.

This month, we all witnessed examples of how people used this time of summer in order to engage in meaningful experiences that shaped them, refined them. Some people were looking to rest, take time from work, and focus on their health; some had a personal ambition and strove to pursue it through a relevant internship; others were practicing an open, curious mind and exploring through different opportunities, trying to discover and define that ambition.

Throughout these entries, there was an underlying theme of investing in one’s self. It at first seems difficult to attribute this idea of investment and growth to everyone’s summer experiences when time was spent so differently. Is it still investing in yourself if you are resting while others are working?

Read More

On the Map: President Obama Addresses AAPI Community Leaders during APAICS Gala

By Andrew Hong

On Tuesday, May 8th, during the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ (APAICS) Annual Gala Awards Dinner, the President of the United States of America Barack Obama came to speak to the crowd of almost 1000 from across the country, and our community was never more visible—nor more vocal.  Upon the entrance of the President, your well-mannered, professional group of Congressmen/women, elected officials, community leaders—and of course, yours truly—were roaring in ecstasy like we were all at a rock concert.

Needless to say, we had reason to be excited.  In addition to the President speaking, the entire evening was electric and wonderfully elegant: celebrities, tuxedos and dresses, sparkling chandeliers, and the esoteric assortment of multiple forks for each person.  But more than just having a pretty surface, the event was truly a landmark occasion, marking a key moment for our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and ultimately our nation.

Read More