My name is Ted Lee and I am a Korean American college student studying political science and public policy at the University of Southern California. I’m from Valencia, CA and I am greatly interested in social justice and constitutional law. While I can proudly boast about my involvement with Asian and Pacific Islander organizations on and off campus now, that wasn’t the case a few years ago.
After graduating from high school I enlisted in the Unites States Marine Corps and served four years as an active duty service member. Being in the Marines was tremendously beneficial for my personal growth, but it didn’t provide adequate opportunities for me to reflect and develop my identity as an Asian American. The military tends to erase individual differences in favor of unity and conformity and, because it prides itself as a non-discriminatory institution forged in battle, any attempts to suggest that racial distinctions and backgrounds matter in how a person is judged are quickly and forcefully dismissed. Because of this artificially “equal” space, I missed the chance to cultivate my personal opinion on what it means to be an Asian American and how that identity is affected by my interactions with other people.
After being discharged from the Marines, I was fortunate enough to be admitted to USC and started classes in the fall of 2012. I was also fortunate enough to participate in Critical Issues in Race, Class, and Leadership Education (CIRCLE), a program hosted by the USC Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS). This program covers many issues affecting the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in America including identity, history, race, gender and sexuality. CIRCLE remains dear to my heart because it was the program that helped me form my identity as a Korean American and as an Asian American. And, despite being elated about feeling at ease about being an Asian American, I knew there was much more to learn and explore. After many months of just promising to get involved with an organization dedicated to serving Asian American communities, I happened to learn about LEAP, located in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles, CA. While my involvement at LEAP is in its infancy, I feel confident in the times ahead because their mission includes developing the future generation of leaders, something which I believe is often forgotten by other nonprofit organizations. The importance of having sound leadership to achieve progress and success is well known and universally accepted. However, it is also known that it is difficult to create an environment where potential leaders can actually refine their skills and become familiar with being in leadership positions. LEAP provides spaces and programs specifically tailored to accomplish those objectives, which is why it uniquely stands out amongst its peers.
Over the next several months, I hope to engage others in conversations on various topics of interest and gravity and exchange personal ideas. Dialogues are guidelines for people to employ in order to critically examine their beliefs and assumptions about the world. By welcoming differing opinions, I foresee this blog as an opportunity for everyone to both teach and learn.