On June 10, at Capitale in New York City, the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) celebrated their 29th Anniversary Gala Dinner: Making Waves. The evening included a networking cocktail hour, dinner, and a memorable speech by Keynote Speaker Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York Oh Joon. AABANY Past President (2012) and Board Member Jean Lee was presented with the 2015 Trailblazer Award. Jean Lee was introduced by General Counsel of Xerox Don Liu, AABANY Advisory Committee Member and Jean’s personal mentor. 

Trailblazer Honoree Jean Lee shared her path of survival, going against the grain and achieving success. At age 8, Jean Lee immigrated to the United States and struggled to assimilate into the public school system due to language barriers. Although immigrant life was tough for her, Jean Lee graduated from New York University with a B.A. degree in Politics and Psychology and a Masters in Social Work. Jean went on to receive her J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law. Jean spoke of making waves simply by trying to keep her head above the water: being forced as a voiceless child to stand up to bullies, having her family exploited for protection money by the police, and growing from those experiences to shape herself into a person that helps others.

Jean continues to use her experiences to inspire young lawyers and law students by putting all of her free time to increasing the diversity of the legal profession for the Asian American community. Jean quoted Immediate Past President Clara Ohr’s words of encouragement: “Never say no to yourself because there will be plenty of others who will say no to you.” During the end of her speech, Jean spoke in Korean to her mother and thanked her for making her strong, bringing tears to the eyes of more than a few people and receiving standing ovation.

AABANY extends its appreciation to KALAGNY in recognizing AABANY member Jean Lee as the 2015 Trailblazer award recipient! We thank KALAGNY for sharing the evening with us and wish them well in their 29th Anniversary Year!

Twitter highlights below:

Happy to be at the @KALAGNY Gala! pic.twitter.com/ZyukU7TjVz

Don Liu of @XeroxCorp: People who make waves have backbones, and no one has more of a backbone than @jeanlee2011. pic.twitter.com/fsMbTImg8N

Don Liu: As first Korean-American woman president of AABANY, @jeanlee2011 not only raised our profile but increased our number of mentees.

Don Liu: As the most junior person of @MCCA_law, @jeanlee2011 is the most important person.

At the @KALAGNY Gala, @jeanlee2011: It was not about #MakingWaves, but survival, keeping your head above the water.

At the @KALAGNY Gala, @jeanlee2011: I was accused of stealing an orange, and any waves I made were unintentional. #MakingWaves

Thanks to @jeanlee2011 for illustrating how #MakingWaves is a personal experience. @KALAGNY

Shout-out to @jeanlee2011 and her mother for teaching us how to be strong and believe in ourselves. @KALAGNY #MakingWaves

Was there a dry eye in the room? @jeanlee2011 @KALAGNY #MakingWaves

Write-up by Intern Chris Arcitio.