Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Floor Speech

Date: April 27, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BACON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize six individuals for Asian Pacific Heritage Month for their contributions to the Second Congressional District of Nebraska. All of these individuals mentioned their humble beginnings and their love for America. Each of these honorees have made significant contributions to the District through selfless contributions and hard work to benefit others. By sharing their culture and helping others, they have benefitted all of America.

Nebraska State Senator Rita Sanders, a Philippine American born in Hawaii who resides in Bellevue, has been married to her husband for 25 years. Her grandparents immigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii, where her grandfather worked in the sugar cane industry and her grandmother in the coffee industry. They worked their way up and eventually owned a coffee farm.

Rita's father was born and raised in Hawaii, later joining the United States Army. While on deployment in Germany he met Rita's mother, where they later married and moved to Hawaii.

Senator Sanders is honored to be a member of the U.S. STRATCOM Consultation Committee, the Offutt Advisory Council and the UNMC Board of Counselors. She served as mayor for the city of Bellevue from 2010 to 2018. While currently serving as the state senator for Nebraska's 45th district, Rita and her husband are commercial real estate developers in their spare time.

As mayor of Bellevue, Senator Sanders worked to return the famed ``Bells of Balangiga'' to the Philippines. While Filipinos have been one of the United States strongest allies since World War II, the return of the bells had been a friction point in relations with the Philippines.

The return of the bells started with a meeting she had with President Duterte of the Philippines, included a formal ceremony with Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Cheyenne, Wyoming announcing the authorization to return the bells, and ended with a ceremony she attended in Balangiga in East Samar, Philippines. After 117 years since being taken by the United States, they were finally returned home where they rightfully belonged, thanks to the hard work and leadership of Senator Sanders.

Dr. Joanne Li is a native of Hong Kong and became University of Nebraska Omaha's Chancellor in July 2021. She is the first woman of color to serve as UNO chancellor and the first Asian-American in the history of the University of Nebraska System to hold an executive leadership role. Dr. Li has a passion for serving learners of all ages among all social, cultural, and economic backgrounds.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Li's parents escaped Communist China as young teenagers. Education was not something her parents could afford for themselves. At a young age, Joanne yearned for a desire to see the world. She enjoyed literature written in different languages and dreamed of being something bigger than herself. Being a rebel at heart, she took a chance to join one of her best friends from Hong Kong and came to the U.S. to start her higher education journey.

Receiving full ride scholarships throughout her higher education journey, Dr. Li graduated with summa cum laude with a major in finance and a minor in economics from Florida State University. Her Ph.D. is also from Florida State University, in Finance with a support area in Econometrics. As a Chartered Financial Analyst, Dr. Li's areas of research interests include corporate governance, executive compensation, banking and investments, and international finance. She has held faculty positions at institutions including Loyola University, Towson University, Wright State University, Florida International University, and UNO.

In addition to her accomplishments as an administrator in higher education, Dr. Li is also a highly engaged leader and scholar who lends her experience to a wide array of causes and organizations including Women in Business (WiBe), the CNBC's Financial Wellness Council, the Higher Learning Commission's (HLC) Board of Trustees; the Board of Directors for the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU); the Board of Directors for Opera Omaha; and the Board of Directors of the Omaha Symphony. She serves as a member of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Global Network Americas Advisory Board; a founding member of the International Advisory Council of the Lisbon School of Economics and Management in Portugal and the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan. Most recently, Dr. Li joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's Board of Directors for the Omaha Branch.

The death of his father due to a cardiac event is what drove Indian American Dr. Deepak Gangahar to become a Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon with special emphasis on cardiac surgery. His mother, who had no formal schooling, was his confidant and trusted friend, ensuring Dr. Gangahar never felt lacking in any way.

Dr. Gangahar completed medical school in India and immigrated to America in 1971 for post graduate education in General Surgery. He then pursued a fellowship in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Having grown up in a small town and in an agricultural state, Dr. Gangahar and his wife found shared social values, work ethics and ideal opportunities in Nebraska. Dr. Gangahar and his colleagues cofounded the Nebraska Heart Institute and the Nebraska Heart Hospital in Lincoln, which became the premium group in Mid-West in the field of Adult Thoracic and Cardiovascular diseases from catheterbased interventions to Heart & Lung Transplantation and Mechanical Hearts. Now retired, Dr. Gangahar works with TeamMates, a school based mentoring program founded by Coach Tom and Nancy Osborne. In addition, he enjoys working with new Start-Up companies, primarily in the medical field to make healthcare safer and efficient.

Dr. Gangahar credits who he is today to the value he got from his parents, mentoring from his teachers and elders, and the opportunity of freedom to choose from his country of choice, the United States of America.

Chinese American Hong Zheng came to the United States in 1992 at the age of 19. He opened his first Chinese restaurant in Missouri 1998 and subsequently moved to Omaha in 2000 to start new restaurants and a grocery business. He currently owns seven Asian restaurants and five Asian Chain Supermarkets across the Midwest region.

He has been an active member in Nebraska Chinese Association since 2008 and was elected as Chairman of Board for NCA for four years. He has been an Honorable Chairman since then and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Bellevue University.

Hong says he appreciates the opportunity to live the American dream, especially as he knows how difficult it can be for new immigrants to adapt and thrive in a foreign country. That is why he serves his community--to give back and assist other immigrants and help them succeed.

In 2019, Hong helped raise money for local flood victims and in 2020 he coordinated the donation of over 25,000 masks and PPE to local health clinics and hospitals. He sponsored the One Community Culture Festival in 2019 and 2022 to celebrate culture and diversity. Finally, he has sponsored scholarship programs at Bellevue University for local and international students in need since 2019.

Born and raised in Vietnam during the war, Huong Truong understood the importance of responsibility to her family and helping with household tasks while also attending school 5 kilometers away. She is an avid reader and sports enthusiast who gained a deeper understanding of American people, customs, and history. She was so impressed by the intelligence and emotional deaths of Americans, which led her to pursue her American dream, arriving in the United States in 2001.

In one year, Huong earned $42,000 from her job and was able to buy a house and car for her family. She then became the owner of a nail salon and met her husband, Nick. Together they operate King Kong Restaurant and have three daughters and a son.

Huong is very passionate about helping others and volunteering is a personal mission for her. She is currently helping six families who are facing difficult circumstances, including a 107 year old woman who needed assistance with money and medicine. Huong said she feels blessed by God with good health and a kind heart and is grateful to America for giving her the opportunity to live her dream.

Born in North Korea in 1938, Sung Jo and his family fled to South Korea in 1946 to join his father, who had fled a year earlier after facing arrest from Communist police. His father's crime? Giving a speech celebrating the liberation from 35 years of Japanese rule- something we call freedom of speech.

At 21 years old, Sung Jo was drafted by the Korean Army and served for 18 months. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English Literature in 1963. He started working for the Holt Adoption Program in Seoul and went to the United States in 1967 and was responsible for bringing orphaned Korean children to their adoptive parents. His family joined him in July 1969, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1974.

Sung Jo started working at Nebraska Machine Production in 1972 and served as Chair of the Korean Association of Nebraska from 1995 to 1996, and as a member of the Board of Directors in 1997. In 2002, he volunteered as an interpreter at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan in South Korea and from 2003 to 2014 he served as the Chair of the Omaha Korean American Senior Group.

In 2005 he became a Lifelong member of the National Korean War Veterans Association and received a citation in 2007 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his services to the Korean American community. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Korean War Veterans Association.

Sung Jo wanted to continue to serve as a liaison between the Korean War Veterans Association and Korean American community, so he donated face masks for Korean War veterans who could not leave their homes during the COVID pandemic.

I salute and thank each of these six honorees for their service and dedication to not only Asian Pacific communities and the Second District of Nebraska, but to America.