Asia Society Presidential Inaugural Gala Celebrates APA Contributions

Maya Soetoro-Ng, Steven Chu Among Featured Guests at Reception

President Barack Obama's sister Maya Soetoro with husband Konrad Ng at the Washington, DC gala on Jan. 17, 2009. (Leslie Talusan/Asia Society)

WASHINGTON, January 17, 2009 - More than 450 guests, including Secretary of Energy-designate Steven Chu, Maya Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Barack Obama, Congressman Mike Honda, and former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta,attended Asia Society's Presidential Inaugural Reception at the St.Regis in Washington, celebrating the role Asian Americans have playedin the election and in US government.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's half-sister, sharedher experience as an Asia Society volunteer in the mid-1990s and paidtribute to the organization for helping her find grounding as an"untethered" graduate student in New York City. "I think the AsiaSociety had done a wonderful job, not only in nurturing education,communication and cooperation but also in helping all of us recognizethe great beauty across this country and this world," she said.

In his introduction of 1997 Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, Asia Society Chairman Richard Holbrookecalled President Barack Obama's choice of Chu for Secretary of Energyas "the most brilliant cabinet decision in modern history." Chu wasformerly co-chairman of the Asia Society's Initiative for theU.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate.

Assecretary-designate and not yet secretary, Chu could not speak aboutpolicy. He did, however, entertain guests with a joke about the time hetold his mother, "Mom, I won the Nobel Prize." According to Chu, hismother said, "That's wonderful, Steven. When are you going to come seeme?" But later she called and said, "Steven, it's true! My neighborstold me it's true!"

Preeta Bansal,who has been appointed as the general counsel and senior policy advisorin the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the upcomingadministration of Barack Obama, represented the Presidential TransitionTeam. "I think we'll see that this is the one of the most successfultransitions in the history of the post-World War II era."

Asthe final guest speaker, Congressman Michael Honda remarked on the pastand future roles of Asian Pacific Americans in US government. "Weexpect something is going to happen in front of us ... and it's thewarmer relationships with the rest of the world."

Reported by Nobuyoshi Sakajiri, Asia Society Washington

AsiaSociety Presidential Inaugural Reception was sponsored by Prudential,Chevron, Western Union, Boat People SOS, His Excellency the Ambassadorof Kuwait and Mrs. Salem Abdullar Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Mr. & Mrs.Leo A. Daly III.