2021 Asia Game Changer West Awards Virtual Gala Recap
April 8, 2021 — Asia Society Northern California stood in solidarity with Asians and Asian Americans and hosted its third annual live Asia Game Changer West Awards Gala. Asia Game Changer West Awards are bestowed to individuals, organizations, and movements that have inspired, enlightened, and shown true leadership in areas that reflect Asia Society’s core pillars of policy and business, arts and culture, technology, and education. This year, Asia Society's Northern California Center honored four Bay Area stars: Eun Sun Kim, the first female music director at a major American opera company, the San Francisco Opera; Tsu-Jae King Liu, the first female dean of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley; Zheng Chongbin, a light and space installation artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area; and Grace Lee, Center for Disease Control advisor on vaccine safety and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Executive Director Margaret Conley hosted and Christie’s auctioneer Elaine Kwok joined live from Hong Kong. Watch the show's opening video, below. (1 min., 21 sec.)
The Virtual Gala PDF program can be viewed here.
Asia Society President and CEO Kevin Rudd delivered opening remarks and addressed the recent wave of racism faced by Asians and Asian Americans, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rudd also acknowledged the contributions made by the four Asia Game Changer West honorees. (8 min., 15 sec.)
The evening's first honoree was Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Dean Liu was introduced by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. Dean Liu and Chancellor Christ are both the first females ever to hold their posts. During her acceptance speech Dean Liu, the daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, discussed the importance of the Asia Game Changer West Awards in highlighting the contributions of Asians and Asian Americans to society. She also touched on her efforts to transform the field of engineering, coaching her students to be more compassionate and caring towards each other in the hopes of a brighter and more diverse future. (8 min., 48 sec.)
The next Game Changer honored was light and space installation artist Zheng Chongbin. Jay Xu, director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and an Asia Society Northern California board member, gave introductory remarks. Hailing from Shanghai but living for over 30 years in San Francisco Bay Area, Zheng's exhibition I Look to the Sky is currently on display at the Asian Art Museum. In his acceptance speech, Zheng mentioned how the exhibition is inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic — "looking to the sky" a metaphor for the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. Zheng said that the arts can allow citizens to feel hopeful about the future, especially as more people get vaccinated. (5 min., 18 sec.)
The third Game Changer honored was Dr. Grace Lee, Center for Disease Control advisor and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine and Asia Society Northern California board member, gave introductory remarks. Lee sits on the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which develops recommendations for U.S. vaccine use. During her acceptance speech, Lee acknowledged the countless Asian leaders working in health care to support the public health response to COVID-19 in the U.S. and globally, and credited her award as a reflection of the work being done by many of her Asian peers and colleagues. (5 min., 22 sec.)
The evening's last honoree was Eun Sun Kim, the first woman music director of a major American opera company. A native of Seoul, South Korea, Kim will join the San Francisco Opera as its fourth music director and the first woman music director in the company's history on August 1, 2021. In his introductory remarks, San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock talked about how the arts can build understanding, compassion, and empathy, especially in light of the recent racism faced by the Asian community in the Bay Area. In her acceptance speech, Kim described the warm welcome given to her by the city of San Francisco and the uncommon level of collaboration exhibited by the San Francisco Opera. (5 min., 19 sec.)
The gala program also featured a performance by all-female dance group Dholrhythms Dance Company. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dholrhythms Dance Company is dedicated to promoting the artistic and cultural heritage of India by sharing rhythms of Punjab through classes, workshops, performances, and events. Since its inception in 2003, the diverse group of women who are part of Dholrhythms Dance Company have become one of the most talked about groups in the region. To learn about Dholrhythms' virtual offerings during shelter-in-place, visit the Dholrhythms website. (5 min., 2 sec.)
Since California's shelter-in-place restrictions began on March 16, 2020, Asia Society Northern California has hosted an average of one virtual event a week. The Northern California Center launched its virtual program series with Asia Society's first-ever virtual gala on April 7, 2020, and has since hosted speakers from 17 countries and regions including Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States; launched its first-ever two-day education summit; joined the virtual Sundance Film Festival for the third year in a row — with nine speakers, all Asian or of Asian descent; launched a five-part Seeking Truth Through Facts U.S.-China program series; and hosted its third annual Future of U.S. and China Conference, an 8-hour live virtual event celebrating Honorary Chair Secretary George P. Shultz’s centennial birthday with a joint interview with Dr. Henry Kissinger. (1 min., 33 sec.)
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