By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)May 29, 2009
In 1974, Sunny Park came to America from South Korea with no money, but with a goal to be successful. As a millionaire whose accolades include founding the General Building Maintenance Company, the One Georgia Bank and a mentorship program for high school dropouts called "If Sunny Can, I Can," most would agree his goal has been accomplished.
Learning of Park's accomplishments simply highlighted what Asian-Pacific Heritage Month was designed to celebrate: that the culture has done much in service to America and continues to contribute today.
"The Asian-American community's contributions to this country are significant," Park told the Fort McPherson community during the celebration May 20 at The Commons at Fort McPherson. "We are an integral part of this country."
As contributors to the country, Park, the vice chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, said that in a sense, people are the owners of the country. Like responsible owners, he challenged his fellow Asian-Americans, as well as every American, to continue to improve themselves and have their influence spread throughout the country.
"Part of an owner's responsibility is to fix problems. When you see something that is wrong, think 'How can I fix this and take care of it,'" Park said, adding that every day he still thinks the country needs him.
Park said the feeling is borne not out of pride or arrogance, but from the selfless desire to serve and make the community better.
"I've been to many countries," he said. "No country is better than the U.S."
One thing that makes America so great, he explained, is its selflessness, and that it can continue on this trend of greatness by continuing to practice the golden rule.
"This is how we became what we are," he said. "The America I know must be selfless, and it is our responsibility to be united and make it continue on," he said.
One part of being united is looking past differences amongst people and seeing everyone else as Americans, Park said, admitting he doesn't like to be classified as an Asian-American.
It is important to maintain and appreciate one's culture, said Mary Ricks, a retired registered nurse with Emery University Hospital.
Ricks, a native of South Korea, shared some of her heritage by showcasing an outfit from Korea as well as sharing stories and insights into her cultures. She explained traditions and vocabulary from her country. Staff Sgt. Chendi Goodman, the administrative NCO for Gen. Charles C. Campbell, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general, also demonstrated a traditional Cambodian dress. Goodman is a Cambodian native who immigrated with her parents to America as a baby.
Both Ricks and Goodman keep their heritage alive in their own Families, with Ricks still celebrating Korean holidays such as the Korean New Year, which is based on the Lunar Calendar and usually falls in February, and the Korean Thanksgiving, Chusok. Goodwin is fluent in Thai, taught to her by her grandmother, and Khmer, which her parents taught her.
Just as these two women brought with them this aspect of their culture, Park said one thing he brought with him from Korea was his love for America.
"I admire the American people," he said.
Park's experience with American servicemembers spans back to when he was a 9-year-old boy during the Korean War.
The love was shown in his speech in which he thanked all the servicemembers in attendance for helping keep America safe and reminded them how important they are.
Park concluded his speech by telling everyone they, regardless of who they are or what they do, have a part to play in influencing the country for the better.
"We're all here for a reason," he said.