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Defining American

Sometimes, when I hear a word, images and stories immediately come rushing into my head.


Betsy Ross sewing stars and stripes. Laura Ingalls running across the prairie. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids watching fireworks. The Oregon Trail. Hands on hearts screeching out the Star-Spangled Banner. A picture of Uncle Sam.

“Hey, you!” Uncle Sam says.

I look around.

“You!” He barks. “I want you!”

“Me?” I ask nervously. “For what?”

His index finger points at me accusingly, even though in my culture pointing is a gesture for dogs. I imagine he’s calling me out, saying: “You don’t belong here.” I look into Sam’s eyes at his white hair and beard and creamy skin and realize he’s right. As a mixed race, Chinese-American woman, these stories of America, quite literally, don’t know the half of it.  

Defininf american This  entry also appears on the Minnesota Humanities Center blog. 

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Becoming Leaderly

This post also appears in a slightly abbreviated form in the May 1 edition of  YNPN Twin Cities’ online newsletter: The Bridge. 

On night one of the inaugural EPIP-YNPN Leadership Institute, we experienced a World Café discussion for which I offered to play table host (mostly so that I wouldn’t have to switch tables, but anyway). After hearing the amazing thoughts of my fellow cohort members I was so humbled and weighed-down with the immense responsibility of capturing, and then harvesting their oh, so insightful nuggets. When it came time to share, I turned to my tablemates, silently asking their permission to share.

I was met with nods back:

“Go ahead.”

Even now I feel this immense responsibility to “say it right” and fully capture the gratifying two-day experience. And, as I’ve learned through my work at the Minnesota Humanities Center: words matter (and doesn’t that suck). However, I’m going to imagine all of my new friends nodding at me and try to do justice to all of our experiences.

Also, for the record, I know leaderly isn’t a word. Sue me.

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