Asian American Groundbreakers Inspire Leadership in ATG Panel Discussion

Rebekah Kim (right) receives 2012 Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship from Sunna Lee (left)

DALLAS, TX – Dallas-based nonprofit ATG Against The Grain Productions hosted their inaugural Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Asian American Movers & Shakers on Saturday, July 28th. Event guests received a docent guided tour of elegant The Crow Collection of Asian Art before packing the main gallery to enjoy champagne, coffee, dessert and experience a lively panel discussion comprised of a diverse cross section of Asian American industry leaders. Each panelist represented a different occupational field, from medicine to fashion, business to film, sports to politics and was carefully selected to share their unique perspective and journey that led to their ultimate success.  After awarding the 2012 Sunna Lee Leadership scholarship to recipient Rebekah Kim, the stimulating discussion topics ranged from witty and profound advice and anecdotes, insightful personal confessions, cultural observations on being raised by Asian immigrant parents, thought-provoking questions for self-actualization and identity, a strong call to action for more mentorship in the community and a round-robin of humorous answers to Inside the Actors Studio questions.

2012 Groundbreakers Panel (left to right): Patrick Wang, Sunna Lee, Dr. Sam Lam, Khanh Nguyen, Ramey Ko, Nur Ali, Rebekah Kim, Tammy Nguyen Lee

Leadership scholarship founder Sunna Lee said, “Many countries, many age groups and many professions were represented [at Groundbreakers], yet the challenges we face are so similar.  It was refreshing and encouraging to hear a point of view of empowerment rather than that of a victim.” The Groundbreakers Speak panel included NASCAR/Formula One Racer Nur Ali, U.S. Olympian Rebekah Kim, judge and activist Ramey Ko, plastic surgeon/entrepreneur Dr. Sam Lam, marketing executive Sunna Lee, fashion designer Khanh Nguyen, filmmaker Patrick Wang and film/tv producer and philanthropist Tammy Nguyen Lee moderating the discussion. Nguyen Lee, who is ATG’s President and Founder, conceived of the event to continue the organization’s unique method of community outreach in an engaging and entertaining format, while also dealing with an issue she views as lacking in the Asian American community. Said Nguyen Lee, “Up to this point, ATG has made great strides in promoting emerging Asian American artists and fundraising for our causes. However, this year, we wanted to add more education to our repertoire and bring leadership to our focus so that we can inspire others to step up. It’s a subject that we need to address, understand, nurture and educate ourselves on so that we can evolve into a stronger community and truly give back to the best of our potential.”

Dr. Sam Lam, a triple-board certified plastic surgeon and author of numerous books, acknowledged that one of the biggest ways to impact the lacking leadership in the Asian American community was through mentorship. Dr. Lam is well acquainted with the significance of ATG events, putting his money where his mouth is by supporting the organization as a year-round sponsor for the past several years.  “Tammy Nguyen Lee once again has proven how talented she is at putting together and leading a first-rate panel to inspire present and future generations of Asian American leaders.”  Nur Ali continued, “We as Groundbreakers need to be more available as mentors to youth and adults alike in our community and work to give them the strength to follow their hearts.  It can be a bit worrisome, but the payoff can also be huge.”

With years already under his young career belt, activist and attorney Ramey Ko shared one of the day’s most poignant thoughts that “if you ever find yourself saying ‘someone ought to do that,’ perhaps that someone ought to be you.” Ko acknowledged ATG as an example that proves “Asian Americans are not only breaking new ground, but we’re doing it in style” and adding that “the tremendous diversity of the panel demonstrates that there are no doors that are closed to Asian Americans, if we have the passion, the commitment and the faith to make our dreams happen.”

With the success of the first Groundbreakers Speak, ATG plans to take Ko’s thoughts to heart and continue hosting this panel as one of its staple community outreach events. Said Nguyen Lee, “This was a great beginning, but there is so much more we can do to help engage and nurture future Asian American leaders. We’ll bring more voices to the table. This was just the tip of the ice berg.”

Event photos are provided courtesy of Saru Photography and can be viewed at the ATG Flickr site. To read about ATG’s upcoming events, please visit

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to giving out an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American students pursuing a degree in the arts, they also produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit or

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