Merced County swears in nation's first Hmong judge

MERCED, Calif.

For the first time in the history of the United States, a Hmong man is now a superior court judge. Paul Lo, 45, was sworn in as a Merced County judge on Friday in front of countless family members, friends and community members -- all emotional at the sight of immense triumph.

"For him to be in that role now that we have young folks that are coming up that can say 'look, he's on the bench, and we can aspire to become successful,' and so those are important role models that are establishing now," said Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong.

Lo has crossed more than just judiciary hurdles. He crossed an ocean to get to where he is today. As a child, Lo was one of many Hmong fearing persecution in Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Many Hmong assisted Americans in the war and had to flee the country.

"They paved the way for us to be here tonight with their lives. They left everything they ever knew, lost everything they ever owned, and braved the unknown," said Lo.

Many political leaders including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, spoke proudly at Friday's historical event.

"That still is a beacon of light throughout the world that you can come here with nothing but the clothes on your back, and if you work hard and you get a good education, you can succeed," said Costa.

Merced County has the fifth largest Hmong community in the country -- now fit with a role model to inspire for generations to come.

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