Famous Asian Americans in Politics and Sports

Famous Asian Americans in Politics and Sports

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Updated on Apr 14, 2010

Ho Feng-Shan

Born September 10, 1901 in Yiyang, Hunan, Ho Feng-Shan was a Chinese diplomat who saved thousands of Austrian Jews during the early years of World War II.

In 1938, when Germany took over Austria, Dr. Ho was in Vienna serving as the Chinese General Consul. The situation for Austrian Jews was becoming increasingly more dangerous, and many tried to flee the country, but more often than not, they had nowhere to go because most of the world’s nations would not accept Jewish refugees. Against the orders of his superiors, Ho began issuing visas to Shanghai to Austrian Jews so that they could leave Austria. The exact number of visas given by Dr. Ho to Jewish refugees is unknown.

What is known is that Dr. Ho issued the 200th visa in June 1938, and signed the 1906th visa on October 27, 1938. Exactly how many Jews were saved through his actions is unknown, but given that Ho issued nearly 2,000 visas only during the first 6 months at his position, the number could be in the thousands. Later, Ho Feng-Shan served as the Republic of China's (ROC) ambassador to other countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, and Egypt. Ho retired in 1973 and settled in San Francisco, CA, where he wrote his memoirs, 40 Years of my Diplomatic Life, which was published in 1990. He died in San Francisco in 1997 at the age of 96 as a mostly unknown hero of World War II.

Dalip Singh Saund

Dalip Singh Saund made history in 1956 when he became the first Asian American elected to the United States Congress. Saund was born in Chhajulwadi, Punjab, India, to a Sikh family on September 20, 1899.

He came to the United States in 1920 to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics. After working as a farmer for more than 20 years after he left school, he campaigned to allow "Hindus," as people of South Asian descent were called at that time, to become naturalized citizens of the United States. After the Luce-Celler Act was passed in 1946, he applied for naturalization and became an American citizen in 1949.

In 1956, he made history when he won an election for an open seat in the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat against a famous aviator, Republican Jacqueline Cochran. He was re-elected twice, becoming the first Asian American, the first Indian American and first member of a non-Abrahamic faith to be elected to Congress. In May 1962, he suffered a severe stroke that left him unable to speak at all, or walk without assistance, thus ending his congressional career. Still, by pioneering the halls of Congress as he did, Saund opened the door for other Asian Americans to enter U.S. politics.

Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan was born in Torrance, California on July 7, 1980 to Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong. She is an American figure skater who won her first Olympic medal at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

Kwan’s interest in figure skating began at the age of five when she followed her two older siblings (hockey player Ron and figure skater Karen) onto the ice. Karen and Michelle began training together, practicing four hours a day, waking up at 3 in the morning to skate before school, only to go straight back to the rink right after school to skate again.

Michelle has won nine U.S. championships, five World Championships, and two Olympic medals. She is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history. Known for her sheer talent and consistency and her passionate artistry on the ice, and she is considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time.

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