I've talked at length about Madame Bounxou Chanthraphone being recognized this Friday by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans during the annual Heritage Dinner at the Earle Brown Center and the once-in-a-lifetime Leadership Awards given by the Council, which was appointed by the Minnesota legislature.
This year is a special year for Lao Minnesotans because we get to honor and recognize two of our own during the awards, the second being Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong, for his leadership in education and the community.
Adisack Nhouyvanisvong has been a teacher, student, entrepreneur, artist and family man. In a way he has lived many lives but he has always been committed to reaching for the best both in himself and in others. He has over 12 years of experience working in education, including the Minnesota Department of Education, helped to found the modern Lao American literary movement and formed a Minnesota technology company, inspiring many across the country given his humble origins as a refugee and immigrant from Laos.
He's been an exceptional role model and a good friend for many years.
As a graduate student Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong co-founded the SatJaDham Lao LIterary Project, a grass-roots organization established to promote the Lao literary arts. In 2010 he co-founded Naiku, an educational software company focused on bringing educational technology tools to help teachers and students.
Dr. Nhouyvanisvong spent the last twelve years working in education in Minnesota. He has created and ensured the psychometric integrity of large-scale educational assessments for the Minnesota Department of Education and for large testing companies. He has taught at the University of Minnesota and is an adjunct faculty at Metropolitan State University and Saint Mary's University.
Dr. Nhouyvanisvong received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and his MBA from the University of Minnesota. He's one of the few Lao in the country who hold an advanced degree but he's inspired a generation to reach for the best within themselves and others and much of our national conversations as a community were made possible because of him.
Success wasn't always a guarantee. There were many uncertainties along the way.
At the end of the war in Laos in 1975, his family’s journey was just beginning. It would take them to many states including Southwest Minnesota, North Carolina and Fresno, California. They were hoping to start over and build a new life with each other and the community. No one could say what would happen next, but it was clear Adisack loved to learn. Getting his advanced degrees, he set precedent and became a role model for many Lao, inspiring others and demonstrating academic success is possible.
But he also wanted to give back to the community and in 1995 he helped to co-found the SatJaDham Lao Literary project, a grassroots movement to give voice to the nearly 200,000 Lao refugees scattered across the globe and set in motion much of the modern expressive voice of Lao in America today.
He also has volunteered with many charitable causes including the recent Twin Cities exhibit Legacies of War: Refugee Nation, a multimedia, interdisciplinary project to examine the complex relationship of the Lao journey to Minnesota which drew over 1,200 people. Dr. Nhouyvanisvong was also a featured guest of the first Lao American Writers Summit, gathering nationally recognized Lao writers from across the country, many for the first time in 35 years, and recently spoke at the Lao Student Association of Minnesota's Student New Year Celebration at the University of Minnesota.
Last year he teamed up with local entrepreneurs who were just as passionate about learning technology as he was and he formed Naiku, an educational software company that has been discussed in the Star Tribune and Asian American Press. He continues to live in Minnesota with his wife and three children and is instilling a deep love of art, culture, education and community service within them.
From 1996 to 2002, Adisack and the grassroots organizers of SatJaDham produced five of the earliest collections of Lao American writing by Lao in their own voices.
As Lao Americans, we can see the results of these efforts as many in SatJaDham went on to lead and participate in national and local organizations committed to education, the arts and the success of Lao both in America and around the world. Organizations such as the Center for Lao Studies in California and the Lao Heritage Foundation. Adisack is often very humble about his efforts in this process but I believe it is fair to say much of the Lao American renaissance we see is possible in part because of opportunities and encouragement he and his friends created.
In 1995, they made direct connections between the arts, academic success, grass roots philanthropy and community building, a little ahead of their time as we look around the country today.
I deeply look forward to what he will contribute to our world in the years ahead and happily congratulate him with my thanks for all that he made possible here in Minnesota.