May 29, 2019


CHICAGO – Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza hosted an award ceremony to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and honor four distinguished Illinoisans for their contributions to the state of Illinois. Below is a selection of Comptroller Mendoza’s opening remarks:


We're here today in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and I'm so glad to have you with us as we recognize this vibrant community and its many significant contributions to our society.


The two words Asian Pacific cannot even come close to describing all the wonderful diverse cultures they encompass.


With an estimated population of around 4.4 billion people and more than 3,200 languages spoken, there are countless examples of customs, art, and music that have influenced this planet for the best.


But truly, the ways in which America has benefited from the participation of the Asian Pacific Community, its heritage, and its additions to our society, cannot be overstated.


Today I have the honor and privilege of recognizing this distinguished group of individuals that embody the spirit of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.


Their commitment to achieving both personal and professional success is deserving of our recognition, our support, and our congratulations.


Today’s ceremony honored:


·      Dr. Dilara Sayeed. Sayeed has served as an award-winning teacher, a nonprofit executive and an entrepreneur. She has worked with the Children’s Defense Fund to disrupt school-to-prison pipelines, has trained educators across the globe and is currently an adjunct professor in leadership at Northwestern University. She is the founder of, a virtual peer platform that helps users across the globe match, meet, and mentor. Sayeed also serves as board president of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition and as a board member for Women’s March Chicago.

·      Andy Kang. As executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, Kang leads the organization’s efforts to build power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity. Kang served as one of the lead negotiators for the Illinois TRUST Act and co-drafted a bill to institute automatic voter registration in Illinois. Kang sits on the board of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), is co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s immigration committee and sits on the advisory board of the Korean American Bar Association.

·      Inhe Choi. Choi is executive director of HANA Center, Chicago’s leading community organizing and social services organization dedicated to empowering Korean American and multi-ethnic immigrant communities in advancing human rights. Choi has dedicated her life’s work toward building strong communities and coalitions across boundaries of race, gender, income level, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities and immigration status. She has served as executive director of the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, program director at the Crossroads Fund and community organizer in the Harold Washington administration for the Commission on Asian American Affairs.

·      Jin Lee. Lee was elected to the Maine Township District 207 school board in the spring of 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. He served on Northeastern Illinois University’s board of trustees from 2005 to 2016, and was a vice-chair from 2008 to 2016. He has been director of government relations and business planning and development for the Albany Park Community Center since 1997. In 2008, he received the President’s Lifetime Call to Service Award. He is president of the Keumsil Cultural Society.