Fresno City Council's First Hmong President

January 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
How Blong Xiong's success could have a positive impact on other Hmong who now call the Valley home. The Fresno City Council made history today, naming the first Hmong resident to hold the position of Council President.

With a handful of cameras in the audience, Blong Xiong quietly made history, taking his seat as Fresno city council's first Hmong president.

The 38-year old former refugee and son of a Vietnam War Veteran who fought under General Vang Pao is now charged with keeping the peace on the council.

While never forgetting his roots and the Hmong community.

Blong Xiong: "It's kind of our responsibility as those who came as first generation refugees that we are that transition for those that are born or came here at a very young age."

But City Hall isn't the only place where a former refugee is making history. The Fresno Unified District recently elected it's' very first Hmong School Board President.

Doctor Tony Vang who came to this country back in 1972 to get an education is now Board President of the fourth largest school district in the state. Vang, who hopes to work closely with Council President Xiong, says "their" success is the American dream for the Hmong community that has come a very long way.

Dr. Tony Vang: "25 years ago we're learning English, learning about the culture this country. It took almost like from scratch to learn."

Both Doctor Vang and Xiong admit being role models for thousands of Hmong and Southeast Asian refugees is an added responsibility.

Reverend Sharon Stanley of Fresno's interdenominational refugee ministries says as politicians they can help ease the fears of many refugees who don't trust government.

Reverend Sharon Stanley: "It's fear that's generated by, and backed up by very significant levels of trauma that their families have endured. Often fear of trauma that has been acted upon them by authority figures."

Whether it's embracing their community or politics, both men say their goal is to give back to the country that's given them so much.


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