Park West Park in Westminster, California, has been renamed after Tony Lam, the first Vietnamese American elected to political office in the U.S.
More than 100 people, including community members and politicians such as members of the Westminster City Council, Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen (R, CA-72) and Rep. Michelle Steel (R, CA-45) attended the May 3 event that honored the 85-year-old politician, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Lam became the first Vietnamese American to win a seat on the Westminster City Council in 1992. He was described as a “true role model” and a “legend” for his contributions in helping Vietnamese immigrants obtain business licenses. He also fought for the construction of a senior center and helped make Orange County’s Little Saigon a community landmark.
“I hardly can express how emotional and how happy I am, that combined together in my heart and mind, I’m truly humbled to be here today,” Lam was quoted as saying at the event. “It’s a great honor to have this park dedicated to my name.”
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Lam worked for the United States Agency for International Development while in Vietnam. He fled his homeland at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and worked as an insurance agent before becoming the co-owner of three restaurants in Little Saigon. The respected politician previously served as the president of the Orange County Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce and on the board of trustees of Humana Hospital and the Orange County Community Council.
“What you have achieved, sir, is unprecedented,” Councilman Tai Do said. “You are a pioneer. You paved the way for our generation to have a higher achievement to run for corporate office. You served with integrity. You protected everybody’s constitutional rights. You got the respect of the City Council. You have the respect of the residents. It’s an honor for me to support this project, and it’s an honor for me to be here to rename this park to Tony Lam Park.”
“This park will bear not just Tony Lam’s name, it will be a prize for Vietnamese Americans and children that will drive by and go to this park and go, ‘Wow, there’s a Vietnamese American name. I wonder what he did? I could do that,’” Nguyen said, noting Lam as a “trailblazer” for Vietnamese Americans.
During the event, Lam spoke about his experiences, from volunteering to help Vietnamese refugees to his time on the City Council tackling crime in Westminster in the 1990s.
Cathy Lam, the daughter of Lam, said she was influenced by her father’s advocacy for the Vietnamese community. She is currently a board member of the Pivot Network and the VANGO Network.
“I’m just so proud and so happy that he’s in my life,” Cathy said. “Everything I do now is for a diverse and a just America.”
Feature Image via Google Maps