Read the full transcript of Kim’s speech below:
Hi, everyone. I want to say thank you very much to Kore Asian Media, to Kevin and Jason at BMW — thank you for teaching me all about the latest models. I appreciate it. I want to say thank you to Epik High, for making me feel like I’m back in the Hawaiian surf.
The last time I was here, I was fortunate enough to be introduced by a then-little-known doctor who had aspirations to be a stand-up comic. That doctor was named Ken Jeong. Yeah. He’s done all right for himself, that Ken, huh? I’ll never forget his introduction that night because he called me ‘the Asian American Denzel Washington.’ I know. I laughed, too. Trust me. But the thing I thought about as I walked onto the stage was, ‘I hope that comes true someday. Even just a little bit.’ Now, I may be a far cry from Denzel Washington, but Ken has gone on to become one of the most prominent and recognizable performers and producers today, regardless of race.
Seeing his success, as well as the success of so many others since then, has served as a real testament to how far we’ve all collectively come in a relatively short period of time. In fact, since the first time I was here, we’ve all had huge successes, like “Ghost in the Shell,” “Aloha,” “The Last Airbender,” “Dr. Strange” and “The Great Wall.” (laugh) I just wanted to see if you guys were paying attention, that’s all.
Seriously, since the last time I was here, we’ve had “Heroes,” we’ve had “Fresh Off the Boat,” we’ve had “Hawaii Five-0,” we’ve had “Master of None,” we’ve had “Man in the High Castle,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Kim’s Convenience.” Breakout actors like Steven Yeun, Chloe Bennet, John Cho, Constance Wu, Randall Park, Mindy Kaling, Justin Chon, Harry Shum, Ali Wong, Aziz Ansari, Sung Kang — there’s so many. There are many others in this room that I am not mentioning, but how nice is it to be able to say, “There are so many”? It’s all incredibly inspiring.
Seeing all the progress we’ve made as a group makes being honored a second time even more gratifying than the first. Now, many of you know me this year especially as a voice for inclusion. I think it’s probably safe to say it’s part of the reason I’m here tonight. Inclusion, diversity — all very popular buzzwords, and extremely important. But what I challenge everyone in this room to do is move beyond these notions of simply being included, to lead. Let’s not simply fight for inclusion. Let’s set our bar higher.
If we are leaders, it’s understood that we are a valued and necessary part of success. Steph Curry’s worried about leading his team to the NBA championship. He’s not sitting in the locker room saying, ‘Gee whiz, I hope I get in the game.’ If you’re a leader, you never have to beg for a place at the table, because you’re the one hosting the dinner.
What’s very evident tonight is that we are capable. We are ready. We are demographically some of the best-educated, highest-earning Americans. Yet we do not occupy places of leadership at a rate that is commensurate with our qualifications. This is in every industry including my own. Why? There’s no shortage of blame to go around, but playing that game is much less productive than simply recognizing those obstacles and finding ways to work around them.
As anyone in the arts will tell you, it’s so much easier to criticize than to create. Don’t get me wrong, identifying obstacles is an important and necessary part of charting a path to success. It’s good. But finding a way to succeed despite them is just better. Being at a nice award ceremony is also good. But donating to or funding Asian American creators, artists, musicians and non-profits is better. Tweeting about the racism we see in the media or everyday life is good. Standing up for yourself in person is better. Feeling a bond with the APIA community is also good. Using that bond to help those of us in need, is better.
On that note, actually, I ask you to please go to the website allysfight.com. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with that. Allysfight.com is spelled a-l-l-y-s fight, dot com, to learn the story of a little boy battling a life-threatening immune disorder. Ally desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. Since he’s Korean, those of us of Asian descent are most likely to be a match for him. Please take a minute to learn how you could literally save his life.
So, scratching and saving for your family’s security like Ally’s family is doing for his, is good. It’s so good. When you have it, reaching outward to use that money to benefit the larger community is better. Raising your voice about politics is good. But voting is better. Getting directly involved through grassroots organizations or even running for office, that’s best.
My favorite quote of late is by the author Anaïs Nin. She said: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” So let’s be courageous. Let’s create. Let’s aspire. Let’s not settle for inclusion, let’s lead. And it’s only then that we’ll truly be respected to the level that we deserve, and expand the notion of what it means to be Asian American.
I know the achievements of many of us in this room, and I’m here to say that all that we can do to lift each other up is worth it. You’re worth it, we are worth it. So I humbly encourage all of us to dream to be good, to be better. Thank you.