Sample Diversity Statement # 2
My father always loved cards. His fondness did not extend to playing card games but, rather, to using them as a teaching tool for my future. He would sit me down and say (in a heavy Korean accent) "Son, I gave up everything to come to this country and give you the best cards. Every day, you take the strong hand I gave you and carelessly throw it away." Although he was constantly referring to my Korean heritage as one of my best cards (my very own Ace up my sleeve), I remember thinking how absurd this notion was. My minority status shook my sense of belonging in the greater society around me.
At the urging of my father, I have been practicing Taekwondo since I was about six years old. Koreans feel as if Taekwondo represents a symbolic amalgamation of Korean history and beliefs. My grandfather practiced Taekwondo, as did my father. I still recall being dragged to Taekwondo class as a young child. While I feigned interest in order to placate my father, I strove to excel in mainstream sports, such as wrestling, in order to gain some sort of legitimacy with my peers.
During high school, I was able to achieve success in wrestling, winning the District Wrestling Championships for the first time. After the wrestling season, I turned my attention to Taekwondo. My status as a member of the popular crowd allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. For whatever reason, I decided to, for the first time, take my commitment to Taekwondo seriously. I found myself renting Bruce Lee films and encouraging my friends to watch these films along with me, and proudly telling my friends about Taekwondo tournaments I was entering. I spent a period of about 4 months in intensive training at my dojo. Before long, I was winning tournaments in multiple categories. The apex of this journey occurred during the summer of my junior year when I was able to compete in the Taekwondo State Championships of New Jersey. I was able to win First Place in the forms category, qualifying me for the Junior Olympics, while making me the State Champion in this particular category.
This process was an important first step in my personal maturation. I realized that being held hostage by the stereotypes others hold can be just as damaging as being attacked for ones beliefs or identity. It was liberating to pursue my talents in a sport without worrying about whether success in this sport would make me too Asian. For the first time, a comparison to Bruce Lee did not seem so bad after all.
My struggle with my father and the Korean culture he represents is still not over. My realization that part of my own insecurities growing up can be attributed to a lack of recognizable Korean faces in the public sphere has informed my professional goals. I hope to use my legal education and political career to provide a voice for Asians that extends beyond restrictive ethnic lines. Having a deep love and appreciation for one's own culture should not equate to a lack of participation in the public arena. By providing me with a very specific purpose and voice, I have found that my Korean American identity serves as one of those advantageous cards that I have been dealt; my father will be happy to know that I am not about to squander it.