First Asian American to Win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

There’s a saying about the Asian American community. Whether or not this actually holds true for you, you’ve probably heard the stereotype that Asians Americans are expected to excel in the medical, law and engineering field.

While we obviously have a lot of respect for those fields, what about the Asian Americans who specialize in art, literature or film? Here at Audrey, we think it’s important to highlight the achievements of Asian Americans in fields outside of medicine or law. Believe it or not, we actually are interested in other things.

A perfect example is Vijay Seshadri who has become the first Asian American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry yesterday for his book 3 Sections. The book is said to be “a “compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.”

India-born Seshadri moved to the United States at the age of five. He holds an A.B. degree from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. from Columbia University where he was a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in Middle Eastern Languages and Literature.

When asked about what the Pulitzer Prize means to him, Seshardi responded, “The Pulitzer is tremendous honor, but it somehow seems to me to have to do not with my past but my future, which is of course something I have to discover.”

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Purchase your copy of 3 Sections here.

(Source 1, 2)

Three Reasons To Be A Proud Asian American Woman in The U.S.

Being both a woman and a person of color can hold its share of obstacles here in the United States. We drown in racial stereotypes on the daily ranging from things as small as “Asian women can’t drive” to things as serious as “Asian women don’t get breast cancer.”

Because of this, we have undoubtedly faced our share of struggles and pressures. In fact, Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group, Asian American girls and women aged 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, and Asian American women over 65 have the highest suicide rate in that demographic.

Clearly, we have quite a bit to overcomes and a handful of issues that need to be further addressed, but this should not make us forget the many ways in which Asian American women have strived here in the United States.

Our hard work and determination is a force to be reckoned with. We have been making strides in education, health, business and countless other fields.  Slowly, but surely, others are starting to notice it too. Below are three of the many reasons to be a proud Asian American woman in the United States:

 

1. EDUCATION

grad capAsian American women have achieved a higher level of educational attainment than women of any other race. In 2004, Asian women surpassed caucasian women for having the highest rate of college graduates.  Now in 2013, Asian American women 8.36 % of bachelor’s degrees, even though Asian women only consist of 5.14% of the female population.

2. BUSINESS

businessThere are over 600,000 Asian American women-owned businesses in the United States. This is an increase of 83% since 2002 and 156% since 1997. The top three states with the highest numbers are California with 193,300, New York with 68,700 and Texas with 51,800 Asian American women-owned businesses.

 

 

3. POLITICS

jean quanThere are six Asian American women in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, totaling to seven Asian American women in Congress. There are 32 Asian American women serving in state legislatures and an Asian American woman mayor—Jean Quan from Oakland, California.

 

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Asian American Indie Band Swears Their Name Isn’t Racist

Story by Young Rae Kim.

The Asian American band, The Slants, have been unsuccessful in trying to trademark their name. For four years, the six-member rock band hailing from Portland, Ore., has been fighting with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which has denied approval, saying the name is disparaging for people of Asian descent.

Simon Tam, the founder and bassist of The Slants, responded by saying that the PTO has rejected their request on the basis of their ethnicity, while a Caucasian band would not be denied this name, NPR reported.

The group, which describes its sound as “Chinatown dance rock,” have already had several attempts shot down by the PTO.

In 2009, the group attempted to “reclaim” the racist term and applied for a trademark with the patent office. However, they were denied approval, to which the band responded by saying that the term holds multiple meanings. For instance, they argued that in their case The Slants referred to musical chords.

However, the PTO ruled that the “The intent of an applicant to disparage the referenced group is not necessary to find that the mark does, in fact, disparage that group.”

The band tried again in 2011, but with a different approach. This time they claimed the name has nothing to with anything Asian.  However, it was refused for the second time.

 

Yet again, the band a now trying another tactic and are now preparing to take the case to federal circuit court, where they are claiming that their right to free speech has been violated. It will be another tough battle because the PTO does not forbid the band to call themselves The Slants, it just does not allow them to trademark the name.

The band is hoping the courts see it differently, and if not, the national attention from the legal battle won’t hurt them.

 

This story was originally published in KoreAm Journal

Kollaboration Star 2013 Voting Begins TODAY

The biggest Asian American talent competition is quickly approaching. Kollaboration Star, which takes place on November 16, 2013 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, will have some of the best talent from the U.S. and Canada competing for a $20,000 grand prize and a ton of bragging rights.

The thirteen city representatives have already been chosen:

  • ATLANTA – ANTHONY BUI, spoken word
  • BOSTON – DEREK HSU, Chinese yo-yo
  • CHICAGO – ALVIN LAU, spoken word artist
  • DALLAS – KASSY LEVELS, vocal/keyboard
  • EAST LANSING – CHRIS LEE, vocal/piano
  • HONOLULU – DA ARAZ, band
  • HOUSTON – MIKEY SILVERIO, beatboxing
  • LOS ANGELES – JOHN & DANIEL RHEE, band
  • NEW YORK – IZZY, rapper/producer
  • SAN FRANCISCO – &BLUE, band
  • SEATTLE – TROY & ARIEL, spoken word/composer
  • TORONTO – PLAITWRIGHTS AND CHARLESTON RELAY, band
  • WASHINGTON DC – DAVE YOON, vocal

 

Out of these thirteen performers, only six will move forward. This is where you come in. The finalists will be chosen by public voting.

voting

According to Kollaboration, “the five contestants with the highest number of votes will move on as finalists, while a sixth finalist will be selected by Kollaboration as a Wild Card. All six finalists will then be flown out to Los Angeles to compete in the finale show at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on November 16th for the $20,000 Grand Prize and share the stage with some of the most prominent names in Asian American entertainment- Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mi Rae, Bizzy, Paul PK Kim, Mike Song, KRNFX, and David So”

Voting begins today! Cast your vote here.

A Wish Come True: Asian American Disney Princesses

Many have grown up with Disney characters and movies, and there’s no doubt some of the more popular Disney characters are the princesses. Well, Filipina American photographer Kim Navoa and Donnie Chang have re-imagined some of those iconic princesses, including Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, in a way that would have made them way more relatable to us Asian Americans when we were growing up.

Navoa writes on her tumblr:

Despite how much we admired these princesses, it was difficult relating to them because they didn’t physically represent us. Take a look at any Disney princess product and you will see the preference towards the White princesses, white washing of princesses of color (skin color, facial features, etc.), and the shoving of these princesses to the side.

 

In the 76 years since Snow White was released, there have been 12 (soon to be 13) Disney princesses, only five of whom are women of color (Jasmine in 1992, Pocahontas in 1995, Mulan in 1998, Kida in 2001, and Tiana in 2009). It took 55 years to portray a woman of color as a princess, and these portrayals also came with problematic and inaccurate representations of their respective cultures & histories (not to mention Tiana was a frog more than half of the movie).

 

How are young APIA children supposed to believe in “happy endings” when we don’t see them happening to people who look like us?

 

Scroll down to see Navoa and Chang’s AA princesses.

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For more, check out all fifteen photographs here.

Asian American Woman Critically Injured After Falling Out Of Moving Cop Car

Kim Nguyen, a 28-year-old accounting and marketing graduate student at Loyola Marymount University, is suing LAPD after falling out of a moving cop car and sustaining critical injuries from the event.

On March 17th, Nguyen was out with friends in Koreatown. While waiting with two others on a sidewalk for their designated driver, Nguyen was detained by LAPD officers David Shin and Jin Oh for suspicion of public intoxication.

Nguyen was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of the cop car. At one point, Nguyen was ejected from the moving vehicle and sustained serious injuries including a broken jaw and brain injuries. Nguyen had to be put in a medically induced coma to heal and may still need to have brain surgery.

Her lawsuit argues, “officers failed to secure her with a seatbelt or lock her door properly, which led to her being ejected from the car.”

Surveillance footage captures some of the incident. The officers had stated that they were accelerating from a stop, however, the footage shows the car driving through a green light just moments before the incident.

“The video shows that the statement that the police officers gave the paramedics is an unabashed, unequivocal lie,” said Casillas during the press conference. The graphic footage shows Nguyen, still in handcuffs, laying on the street with her clothing bunched around her waist. Officers stand over her as her legs move back and forth on the ground.

 

The surveillance video can be viewed below:

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Asian American Proposal Video: Girl Asks Guy to Marry Her — and Gets a Surprise Instead

If there’s one thing we can never get sick of here at Audrey – it’s wedding proposal videos. In the latest edition of adorable and heart wrenching wedding proposal videos – Vicky decides to take a step to where not many woman have ventured before – propose to her boyfriend of eight years. Jon had proposed to her more than once before, but she had always turned him down since she wasn’t ready before. Well, what better way to let him know that she was ready – by proposing herself.

Props to you Vicky – you’re one courageous woman. On the sweet side of it, Jon also has a surprise for her as well. Watch on!

(On a side note, is it just me, but the usage of ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri gets me EVERYTIME.)

vicky + jon — proposal from amy wan on Vimeo.

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Grace Ueng, Founder and CEO of Savvy Marketing Group (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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“ONE OF MY CEO CLIENTS SAID TO ME, ‘GRACE, YOU WILL THINGS TO HAPPEN.’ ALL ENTREPRENEURS WILL THINGS TO HAPPEN; YOU HAVE TO REALLY WANT IT. ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE MOUNTAIN-MOVING GOALS, YOU HAVE TO INSPIRE PEOPLE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.” — Grace Ueng

Grace Ueng was supposed to be an engineer. Her father was a professor at Georgia Tech, she grew up surrounded by engineering magazines, and after only applying to universities that had engineering programs, she ended up at MIT. But when she got there, she found herself scrambling to find her place in this environment of technical geniuses.

What she discovered was that she was a better leader than a programmer. Despite the fact that she had mapped out an escape route to study English at another Ivy League, she ended up being elected president of her MIT class and continued to serve for the next three years. After transferring to the school’s Sloan School of Management, where she studied management science and marketing, Ueng started the Sloan undergraduate Management Association, which still runs today. She would eventually go to Harvard Business School.

“I wasn’t the super geek who codes, but because I went to MIT, I really understood technical people,” says Ueng, who has worked for a number of technology start-ups and led campaigns for entrepreneurial technology companies that produced more than $1 billion of value for investors. “A lot of technical people don’t know how to bring their brilliance to the market, but in order for people to take advantage of their invention, it has to be packaged up. That’s where I come in.”

Nowadays, as CEO of Savvy Marketing Group, whose slogan is “Your successful venture is our passion,” Ueng has been called everything from “a success accelerator,” “a strategic weapon” to “a corporate therapist” by clients that now understand how strategic marketing can be integral to the success of their company.

When Ueng founded Savvy Marketing, many of her earlier clients were based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, home to many of the nation’s prominent high-tech research and development centers. Ten years and approximately 100 projects later, she has branched out into health care (marketing medical technologies and devices), has started a nonprofit practice (recently, she helped revamp the business plan of a local organization that gives small business loans to rural and underprivileged populations), and has begun consulting companies interested in taking advantage of the Chinese market (an area she became interested in after teaching entrepreneurial marketing at Shanghai’s Fudan university).

Looking back, when she was working in executive teams where she was often the youngest member and the only Asian American woman, she says she was always trying to be superwoman. “Also, because I was a single mom, I felt like I had to prove that I could do what men, who had wives to do everything at home for them, could do,” says Ueng. “And now I realize women should just be themselves. I was always so focused, but you can’t always plan life.”

This was a lesson that was cemented eight years ago when she “literally went downhill at 40.” A few days before her 40th birthday, she was involved in a biking accident that left her with a broken neck and without her short-term memory. Neurospecialists told her she couldn’t work for months, but she was able to relearn everything and finish the projects she promised she would finish. Since then, she’s established a healthier work-life balance, and her second chance at life just makes her appreciate her work more.

“I want my clients to think big, and I want to help them get big,” says Ueng. “One of my CEO clients said to me, ‘Grace, you will things to happen.’ All entrepreneurs will things to happen; you have to really want it. Especially when there are mountain-moving goals, you have to inspire people to make it happen.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES

On being initially intimidated while studying at MIT

I sometimes think that if I went to a less intense school, maybe I would have been an engineer. But it was my freshman year, I was put with the smartest woman from Korea and the smartest person from the Philippines, and everyone was so intensely brilliant. Then there was me, from Georgia, where people say, “Hey y’all!” I realized being a science brainiac wasn’t my thing, and decided to do what I wanted to do in that environment. It was definitely very rigorous, but I was always surrounded by very collaborative people at MIT.

On her bike accident at 40

It was a life-changing experience. After my head injury, my first words were in Chinese, [which she had learned as a kid but didn't speak as an adult]. It was such a wild experience, and when I started forgetting my Chinese, they told me it was good cause my brain was healing. I couldn’t work for a number of months because I had to rest, and that was hard. It made me really appreciate life because it was almost gone, and I was also asked to do more inspirational talks, which I loved.

On her initial goals when working with clients 

First, I always want to understand what the client’s goals are and how our influence can help them be successful. When Ping Fu [of Geomagic, now 3D Systems Corporation] hired me, she told me, “I seek truth, not comfort.” And our role to always tell the truth to our clients. We see things in a different way. They’re so close to their business, and we can give them an outside perspective, and sometimes it’s tough, because I definitely see all the issues, but it’s my responsibility to point them out and help figure out solutions. It’s our responsibility to go in quickly, assess the situation, ask for the right data, gather the right data, and generate new data in order to glean insights and help implement change.

Who influences you? 

Well, I’m most influenced by my parents and the way I was brought up, and then, on a day to day basis, by my 16-year-old son. And also my friends and clients, because I’m picky about the people I work with. I work with people with integrity and big goals. But I even learn from my interns because young people have a totally different point of view, and as much as they say I mentor them, it’s a two-way street. I think I learn from everybody, and you should learn from everybody.

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Somaly Mam, Co-founder and President of the Somaly Mam Foundation

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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“When I was in the brothels, I felt like I had died inside, even though my body was alive,” says Somaly Mam, a former human trafficking victim who has dedicated her life to ending the sex slave trade around the world. “I would have loved for someone to help me, but there was nobody I could call or trust. These memories inspire me to do what I am doing today. You cannot forget, but you can forgive and love again.”

After being orphaned as a child during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge rule, Mam was forced into prostitution by an abusive man she called “grandfather,” and she suffered for many years until a French aid worker helped her escape Cambodia in 1993. Mam says that at the time, she had no idea that she would devote herself to this cause, eventually co-founding the French nonprofit foundation AFESIP in 1996 and, in 2007, becoming the president and face of the Somaly Mam Foundation, which supports victim services, eradication efforts, and survivor empowerment from their New York Headquarters. Somaly and her team have rescued over 7,000 women and girls to date, and have touched the lives of tens of thousands more through peer education and outreach efforts.

“My life immediately changed the day I met a girl named Tom Dy who suffered from HIV/AIDS,” says Mam. “She reminded me of my past life in the brothels, and I immediately took her home with me because I wanted her to feel safe. There are more and more girls who need help to build new lives with dignity, but how? It takes five minutes to save them from brothels, but what are you going to do with them? This is the challenge.”

Mam not only participates in raids to help girls as young as 5 escape, but the foundation provides shelters and rehabilitation programs that help reintegrate the victims into the world. When Mam first started AFESIP, she asked trusted friends to help teach the girls how to sew; nowadays, there is education provided for the younger girls, and career training for the older ones, from hairdressing to computer skills and English-language classes.Eradicating human trafficking, now the second most profitable criminal enterprise, requires more global attention. At the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in 2012, President Obama named human trafficking as a national priority, and he became the first ever U.S. president to visit Cambodia. However, a 2013 UN report stated that people trafficked now come from at least 118 countries — 58 percent are for sexual exploitation and most are women, with the number of children increasing.

“When you see a woman sitting on the street, ask yourself who she is, what her story might be, where she might come from,” says Mam. “If she had a choice, maybe she would have chosen something different for her life. Please do not look down on her. Please do not abuse her further. There are a lot of problems in the world, and human trafficking is only part of the larger problem of the breakdown of values and connection between people.”

Mam not only provides this connection for her girls who call her “Mom,” but she encourages them to speak out for themselves through the foundation’s Voices of Change program, run by survivor Sina Vann. Some of the girls also host the “Somaly’s Family” anti-trafficking radio show in Cambodia to spread awareness. By empowering the victims, they are, in a sense, creating a powerful legion of mini Somaly Mams.

“I am so proud of the survivors in the program who stand up and advocate for those whose voices are not being heard,” says Mam. “There is a young generation of leaders who are engaged in this fight, and that gives me great hope for change.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On the Voices for Change program

Voices for Change is designed to give survivors an opportunity to help themselves by helping others, to have their voices heard in the courts of law and public perception, and to have influence and impact on effectuating change. It is our vision that from those who have struggled through the pain of slavery will arise a new generation of leaders who stand for justice and free will. Some of our survivor-leaders host their own radio talk show, for the purpose of raising awareness in the community: in Cambodia, radio is still the best way to reach the masses.

In collaboration with UNIAP, Voices For Change conduct trainings in combating human trafficking to police, gendarmeries and local authorities who obligate to implement law legislation. In addition, they facilitate a student coalition as [a means of] groundbreaking local activism to combat human trafficking in the next generation.

On watching her girls grow up

My work means so much to me because I watch these children get their childhood back: especially when I see them going to school. Thousands of women have been reintegrated with sustainable livelihoods; some of them have gotten married and now have their own families. I cannot tell you what these stories mean to me. In addition to two girls who are now university students, there are three more girls who have just taken their high school diploma exam in the last couple days. After all they have been through in their lives, they are going to have a degree in the near future.

On Sina Vann, her right-hand woman and the Voices of Change co-director

Sina is a survivor, trafficked when she was 12 years old from Vietnam to Cambodia. She was drugged and locked up, and for many years was forced to take 20 clients a day — if she refused she was beaten. When she came to us, she hated all Cambodians because of what had been done to her. My staff said we could not take her — she was too much a fighter, too violent and unpredictable. She didn’t speak Khmer, I didn’t speak Vietnamese, but I took her hands in mine and looked her in the eye. I was careful and loving with her, and soon we understood one another. Sina stayed with us — she did not leave! — and as she recovered in the center, she learned Khmer and English and began to show leadership qualities. Now she works in the field every day doing outreach and advocacy, visiting the centers, inspiring the younger girls, and traveling to speaking engagements and conferences.

Who influences you?

Mainly my girls influence me. I see them recovering, going to school and having hope. Secondly, my team’s work: they work so hard to support victims and survivors. Thirdly, my team of Voices for Change survivors; they stand up and advocate for those whose voices are not being heard. And all the supporters around the world influence me too. Without them, none of our achievements could have happened.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Alex Wagner, Host of MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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ALEX WAGNER
Host of MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner

If two Fulbright scholars from Burma have a daughter, and this progressively minded woman, who worked at the historic nonprofit American Association of University Women (AAUW) to empower young girls, procreates with a top U.S. political strategist who worked on Ted Kennedy’s and Bill Clinton’s campaigns for president, you might just end up with someone like Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC’s daily political opinion program NOW with Alex Wagner.

According to Wagner, her interest in journalism started “in utero,” and she worked on her school newspapers from elementary school all the way through college. Politics also runs in her bloodstream, and early memories of her father include him coming home every night from the Ted Kennedy campaign, immediately picking up the phone and asking for the poll numbers of the day. “When I was little, that’s how I learned to answer the phone,” says Wagner. “I’d stand on the chair in the kitchen to pick up the phone, and I’d say ‘Give me the numbers!’”

There was always a healthy amount of debate at the dinner table, a skill that would prove helpful many years later when she launched her own show. In addition to showcasing a young, diverse female voice, NOW with Alex Wagner values Wagner’s unconventional broadcast background: she worked on music and cultural magazines before becoming the cultural correspondent for the Center for American Progress; executive director of the advocacy organization Not on Our Watch, started by the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon; White House correspondent for Politics Daily; and then a contributing analyst to MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

NOW highlights issues close to Wagner’s heart, including income inequality, social mobility, immigration, surveillance and national security, but it’s important to Wagner to make news interesting and accessible to a wider audience — whether it’s having openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn come on to talk about how even conservative New Yorkers are congratulating her on her marriage, or booking untraditional guests like Questlove from The Roots to talk about his reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. “We are all part of the national dialogue,” says Wagner. “It’s just that some voices are heard more than others.”

In 2012, Wagner was given the opportunity to sit down with Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, as part of Amnesty International’s Rights Generation town hall event in Washington, D.C. Wagner’s family on her mother’s side are Burmese exiles who were granted safe passage to the U.S. when her grandmother was hired to head the East Asian books department at the Library of Congress. Decades later, Wagner was able to take her 96-year-old grandmother to meet the iconic pro-democracy leader.

“I don’t want to take away from the fact that it’s a difficult time for Burma,” says Wagner, “but just the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi was released [from 15 years of house arrest], then the fact that she was in the U.S., and then finally that my grandmother could be in the room, alive, to see her gain freedom and have her granddaughter interview her — I never imagined it in my wildest dreams.”

Wagner credits her grandmother, who used to take her to Burmese Democracy Movement protests as a kid, for gifting her a passion for activism and advocacy early. “She was always trying to get arrested,” says Wagner. “Nowadays, more people know about Burma, but this was a time when unspeakable atrocities were being committed against ethnic peoples of Burma, and nobody was paying any attention. My grandmother was out there waving her signs, and she got arrested when she was 84 or 85.” Wagner laughs. “I remember my mother was so indignant, but my grandmother was completely unapologetic.”

It’s this type of political spirit that Wagner wants to inspire in her viewers. “I hope the show is a reminder of the importance of politics, service and democracy, and that it will encourage more people to believe in the process and participate,” she says. “It’d be great if someone thought, ‘I want to make a difference in that issue, so I’m going to run for PTA to get involved in these questions of education, I’m going to march against this cause, or I’m going to get involved in a death penalty case.’ I hope we promote awareness and optimism about the power to change.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVES

On how her parents met

My mother is a Burmese exile. My grandfather was involved in the Burmese government before the military coup, things became very difficult for my family in the early 1960s, and they needed to get out of the country. Both my grandmother and grandfather had been Fulbright scholars who came to the US in 1950s, and my grandmother had done her master’s in Library Science at Catholic University in Washington DC, so they contacted their circles to see if they could get assistance getting out of Burma. The US Library of Congress actually needed someone to be the head of their East Asian Books Department, so they arranged all the papers and necessary visas for my grandmother and uncle and mother to get safe passage to the US. But it took 3 or 4 years for them to get out of the country, and in an absolutely stunning move, the Library of Congress kept the position open for years so that my grandmother and family would have a place that they’d be able to come in the US. My mom and uncle went to college in US, and my grandfather eventually joined them a few years later. My mom was very politically-minded in college and eventually ended up in DC working for Teamsters labor union, and my dad was person who hired her.

On starting NOW with Alex Wagner in 2011 in the midst of the presidential campaigns

[MSNBC president] Phil Griffin is kind of a maverick. He is just went for it. He said, “Let’s just do this thing at noon.” He was upfront. “You’ll probably suck for first six weeks and the first six months, and then you’ll figure it out.” [laughs] He had a very open and adventurous attitude toward it, and since he is the president of the network, if he has that attitude, it’s contagious. You think, let’s give it a shot!

On some levels, it’s harder to start a show during a presidential campaign, but in other ways, it’s easier, because it’s a pre-determined set of stories. Now, we’re in a different period, so the way we go about picking stories is like developing a different muscle group. In some ways, it’s scary and difficult, but if you’re curious about world, it’s a very fortuitous time to be in news.

On learning to share her political opinions on air

There’s a difference between having your point of view in a discussion with your producers and saying it on the air, and it’s taken some time and experience to figure it out. Sometimes I have said things that perhaps were not the most thought-out, but as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the medium, my producers and I have become more comfortable showcasing my opinion and writing scripts that are reflective of my point of view. But at same time, it’s important for us to allow room for debate and discussion that gives ample time to people who have different points of view. As much you may hear my opinion and understand where I’m coming from, I try not to make it so that I’m litigating my point of view — that my view is the only view. Preserving that is a really important part of the show.

Who influences you?

Nelson Mandela is a huge inspiration. I was just looking through biographies of him a couple months ago, when we thought he might pass way, and his life is so incredibly extraordinary. His perseverance and belief in a hope unseen. That’s the story of Mandela that I think everyone should carry with them at all times.

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.