Highlights from the 2012 Justice in Action Awards

AALDEF Honors Fareed Zakaria, Parkin Lee, and Jean Koh Peters in 2012

website1.jpgImage: Lia Chang

CNN Host Fareed Zakaria, Yale Law School Professor Jean Koh Peters, and Parkin Lee of The Rockefeller Group were honored with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund's (AALDEF) 2012 Justice in Action Awards on February 8, 2012.

Since 1987, AALDEF has awarded the Justice in Action Award to exceptional individuals for their efforts in advancing social justice and human rights for Asian Americans.

Juju Chang, Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC News Nightline, and Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs and digital media professor at Columbia Journalism School were the co-emcees for the banquet of over 800, with Daily Show correspondent, actor, and master of satire Aasif Mandvi as the special guest. Chang and Sreenivasan, both long time supporters of AALDEF, began by sharing their highlights of the past year, from Chang's interviews with celebrities like Celine Dion to Sreenivasan's ambush by right-wing activist James O'Keefe.

Among the guests at Pier Sixty in New York City were past Justice in Action Award recipients  including actor BD Wong, Art Chong, A.B. Cruz III, Harold Koh, Alice Young, Javade Chaudhri, Sandra Leung, and Don Liu. Elected officials and judges were also part of the crowd, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York - who currently graces the cover of TIME magazine (leading emcee Sreenivasan to joke that his celebrity factor was compensation for New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin's absence.)

AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung wished the audience a happy new year and reminded them of the necessity of their support. "There are reports of the NYPD's targeting of Muslims and South Asians under the guise of national security," said Fung. "Just this week, the Superbowl featured a racist political ad by Republican candidate Pete Hoekstra mocking Chinese people. So in the Year of the Dragon, we have our work cut out for us."

The power of the immigrant experience in the United States was a theme throughout all three acceptance speeches. "We are creating the first universal nation," said honoree Fareed Zakaria. "Ten years before I became a citizen, I began using the word 'we' to describe the United States. There isn't a country like this where people from all over the world come and are entirely included in the process."

Parkin Lee, former president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Law Foundation and Vice President of The Rockefeller Group, spoke about his childhood growing up in a Chinese hand laundry after World War II. "This country was built on the strength and creativity of immigrants who came here and made lives for themselves," said Lee.

Honoree Jean Koh Peters, the renowned children's rights and immigrants' rights scholar, reminded the audience of the value of public service. "Never let your skill exceed your virtue," Peters said.

The night ended with Aasif Mandvi's hilarious and deeply politically incorrect stand-up. "I thought they were filming this portion of the show for Comedy Central, but really it's for the NYPD," he began. Mandvi added, "AALDEF is at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Muslim Americans. If you believe that all Americans should live in a free and equal society - I can't imagine why you would - then please support the organization."

Past Justice in Action Award recipients include the late civil rights icons Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, David Henry Hwang, Mira Nair, Deval Patrick, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Charles Ogletree, Jr., Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Harry Belafonte, Juan Gonzalez, Margaret Cho, and Yoko Ono.

The Rockefeller Group was a 2012 Justice Circle sponsor.


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The 2012 Justice in Action Award Recipients

AA7.jpgFareed Zakaria has had one of the most illustrious careers in the history of American journalism. At the age of 28, he became the managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine straight out of Harvard University's political science doctoral program. From 2000 to 2010, Zakaria was editor of Newsweek International. He is currently editor-at-large of TIME magazine, host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, a Washington Post columnist, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom, among other critically-acclaimed works.

Coverage of Fareed Zakaria's Justice in Action Award at Mediabistro, IndiaWest, News India Times, Silicon India, and Pravasi Herald

AA5.jpgRenowned children's rights and immigrants' rights scholar Jean Koh Peters began her career at Yale Law School in 1989 after teaching for three years at Columbia Law School. In 2009, she was named the Sol Goldman Clinical Professor of Law at Yale, and she currently supervises students representing clients in the Sol and Lillian Goldman Family Advocacy for Children and Youth Clinic and the Immigration Legal Services Clinic. She has authored the book Representing Children in Child Protective Proceedings: Ethical and Practical Dimensions, now in its third edition.

Yale Law School: Jean Koh Peters honored with Justice in Action Award

AA6.jpgBefore joining The Rockefeller Group as Vice President and Chief Legal Officer in 2008, Parkin Lee worked with the New York Life Insurance Company for 20 years in a variety of positions. Throughout his distinguished professional career, Lee has been a pillar of the Asian American legal community, serving as President of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Law Foundation, which awards scholarships to law students who demonstrate a commitment to serve or contribute to the Asian American community as future leaders.

The Lunar New Year Gala

Since 1987, AALDEF has presented the Justice in Action Awards to exceptional individuals for their efforts in advancing social justice and human rights for Asian Americans. The Justice in Action Award recipients are chosen for their contributions to Asian American communities across the nation, as well as for their singular achievements in their respective fields.

Each year, AALDEF presents the Justice in Action Awards at its annual Lunar New Year Gala, a celebration of Asian Americans in civil rights, law, business, and the arts.

All proceeds from the Lunar New Year Gala will go directly towards supporting AALDEF's legal and educational programs in immigrant rights, economic justice for workers, voting rights and civic participation, affirmative action, language access to services, youth rights and educational equity, housing and environmental justice, Census policy, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.

Highlights from the 2011 Awards honoring A.B. Cruz III and Lillian Kimura

View a photo montage of all Award Winners since 1987

The full list of all past Award Winners


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