On Thursday, Nov. 4, Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) spoke to Princeton students about the importance of public service and his experience combating anti-Asian prejudice. The event was hosted by the Asian American Student Association, the Whig-Cliosophic Society, and College Democrats, and took place in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber.
Kim took the call from the balcony of the U.S. Capitol Building during the vote on the Build Back Better bill (H.R. 5376), pausing the meeting at one moment to run inside and vote.
Stating that he sees himself as a public servant first and foremost, Kim emphasized valuing service as much as his other identities, such as being a son of immigrants, a husband, and a father. Kim also argued that “service is a job, not a way of life.”
Kim spoke about the importance of college students becoming involved in service, in whatever capacity brings them the most satisfaction — to continue to train and educate in the pursuit of that service. Still, he advised attendees not to “conflate service with sacrifice” — meaning not to sacrifice what is most valuable to themselves in the name of public service.
As an Asian American running in a district (N.J.-3) with around a 3 percent Asian American population, Kim said that campaigning was far from easy. He was initially told by political advisers that his “race limited what he could do.” He ultimately decided to “not allow others to decide what [he’s] capable or not capable of based on the color of [his] skin.”
According to Kim, he outperformed both President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) by around eight points each in the 2020 election. He is the first Democratic Korean American member of Congress.
Kim also spoke about anti-Asian sentiments, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. He described an incident of prejudice where he was told to “get away” by a woman who believed that he would give her the virus simply because he is Asian.
Speaking on the COVID-19 hate crime bill that he authored, Kim said that when many Republicans voted against it, it made him feel “invisible.”
“It’s not always about politics,” he said.
Kim also discussed his time working in the State Department and how he was banned from working on issues surrounding Korea, as a person of Korean descent. He stated that “diversity is a strength,” but that the State Department may have viewed it as a threat.
After encountering racism and anti-Asian hate firsthand, Kim said he worries about America’s future and that the country is entering an era of xenophobia. He stated that, although he wishes there were ways to solve problems in the country surrounding race in “one fell swoop,” it’s not that easy.
Throughout the event, Kim encouraged students to find a meaningful way to engage in public service.
“It could be just about anything,” he said. “Find your place in this fight.”
Lia Opperman is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com or @liamariaaaa on Instagram.
Charlie Roth is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.