April 1, 2017
By Miriam Kim
Esteemed members of the judiciary, Honorable Khizr Khan, and ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
Congratulations to our honorees and outgoing president Hung Chang. Thank you to our board, sponsors, and host committee. I would also like to thank my colleagues at Munger, Tolles & Olson. I would not be here without your support and commitment to diversity.
And thank you to my family – my parents Rev. Jae Youn Kim and Hye Sook Kim, my siblings, my extended family, and my sons John and James. Most of all, thank you to my husband Henry Kim for his patience, love, and support.
Why does AABA stand up for justice?
People often ask me how AABA has been able to stand up for justice since 1976 without any full-time staff, and how I balance AABA with my litigation practice and family. The key to those questions is not HOW we do it, but WHY. AABA Stands Up For Justice because we know the dangers of prejudice, and we believe in justice and equality for all.
AABA has a spiritual ethos that is borne out of a deep understanding of the dangers and harms of misperception and prejudice. For many AABA members, this understanding comes from discriminatory laws and orders, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Executive Order 9066, or the recent immigration Executive Orders. My understanding of these dangers stem from my grandfather who was persecuted for his Christian faith without due process of law.
During World War II, he was persecuted and forced to hide in the mountains for 15 months. His only visitor was a good Samaritan who periodically brought him food. During the Soviet occupation of northern Korea, he was imprisoned for 29 days in an upright coffin-size cell, 2 ft x 2 ft x 6 ft. He was supposed to die, but didn't because of the generosity of a Russian soldier. During the early years of Kim Il Sung’s rule, he was tortured in prison for about two years until he escaped and hid for 103 days in a hole under a good Samaritan's stable.
Twenty five years ago, my father taught me the importance of justice and equality in the wake of the LA civil uprisings when he marched with Koreans, blacks and Latinos, crying for justice and peace for all people of color. Because of my grandfather and my dad, I share AABA’s belief in justice, equality, and the rule of law.
How will AABA stand up for justice this year and what can you do to get involved?
We will stand up for justice by coming together as a community and mobilizing our 1,000 members to defend civil rights and the Constitution and to advance to higher positions of influence in the legal profession. This isn’t a new strategy. In the early 1980’s, as Judge Lucy Koh mentioned, a group of AABA members in their 20’s and 30’s mobilized with others to overturn Fred Korematsu’s conviction. We’re fortunate to be joined tonight by Fred Korematsu’s daughter Karen Korematsu.
Today, we continue to see haunting parallels to past wrongs against minorities and other diverse communities. When we see Constitutional rights threatened, we cannot stand idly by. I’m proud that AABA publicly denounced the recent immigration Executive Orders, and we applaud our members and partnering organizations that were on the ground at the airports.
If you want to stand up for justice with AABA this year, I want to share a few things you can do to get involved:
First, as my first official act as President of AABA, I am issuing a call to action to our members to speak out and take concrete action against discrimination, hate crimes, and religious intolerance. I invite you to join one of three new sub-committees of the AABA Civil Rights Committee formed in response to this call to action: rapid response communications team, amicus briefs, and corporate outreach sub-committees.
Second, you can join our educational efforts to remember past wrongs as a means of warning our leaders of the perils of injustice. Upcoming events include a screening next week of a documentary on the right to be an American citizen, and in partnership with the United States District Court and the Federal Bar Association, a re-enactment of the trial of Minoru Yasui who challenged the incarceration of Japanese Americans all the way to the Supreme Court.
Finally, you can help AABA empower the next generation of leaders for the sake of justice. A study by Justice Goodwin Liu shows that Asian Americans have made great strides in the legal profession but remain significantly under-represented in leadership positions in law firms, government, and academia. We have a wide range of programs to support our members, but for our in-house lawyers, I’m excited to announce that AABA, in partnership with the Bay Area Asian American General Counsels Network will launch a one-year fellowship program for senior in-house lawyers nominated by a general counsel as rising stars on the path to the GC spot.
Friends, this is a critical time for our nation, and our community needs us for such a time as this. Just as my grandfather needed the help of a good Samaritan. Just as Fred Korematsu needed the help of his legal team. Our community needs us, and we will not let them down.