Recently a number of media sites, including CNN, published articles criticizing the White House internship program’s supposed lack of diversity. As a former White House intern and a first-generation Asian-American, I found this vicious attack appalling. While others may have felt comfortable attacking others they do not know from the outside, I was actually “in the arena,” and I know firsthand that their attacks do not in any way reflect the spirit or the manner of the way this White House operates.
When I applied to the White House, I wrote in my personal statement about how when I was 14, I worked at my first job as a cashier at Burger King. As I knew our family was struggling to make ends meet, I gave many of my paychecks to my parents, who had already sacrificed so much so that I could grow up in the greatest country on Earth. My parents taught me to always work hard and that in order to achieve my goals in life I would have to overcome my obstacles. Little did I know that years later, I would receive a letter from the White House accepting me to be part of the Fall 2017 White House Internship Program under the Trump administration.
Interning at the White House was an incredible experience. Through the internship, I was able to meet and became friends with good and bright people from all different walks of life who all were there for one reason: because we wanted to, in some small way, serve our country. When we got to meet President Donald Trump, I stood next to him for our class photo. I never imagined that, given my background, I would ever get a chance to stand next to the leader of the free world. I know that this opportunity could happen only in a place like America. After the picture was taken, I lamented to my fellow interns that once it was released, liberals would be calling me “token Asian” or “they just put an Asian kid in to look diverse.”
Well, much to my chagrin, weeks later after the photo was out to the public, several of my friends texted me stating that a liberal group on Facebook made some comments toward me. “He’s got an Asian guy in front so it covers [Trump’s] racism. Probably ask that guy to make [Trump] sushi.” First of all, sushi is from Japan; my ethnicity is Hmong and we are from the jungles of Laos. Another Facebook user wrote “Wow … do I see a token Asian in front?” and another user wrote that “anybody can Photoshop an Asian American in the pic for the diversity [use].” These are presumably the same people professing the principles of tolerance and inclusiveness to those who they believe are backward or sinister in their motives merely because we do not share political views.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where people will always say something negative about you, even without taking the time to get to know you. Others will have no qualms about sacrificing all your accomplishments and hard work, your fortitude and sacrifice, on an altar in service of their political agenda. The only thing that matters to people these days is whether there is an “R” or “D” after your name. Despite other people’s attacks, I am proud to have served as a White House intern for this president and this White House. I believe in his agenda and know firsthand that it has nothing to do with one’s background or skin color. Trump is fighting to Make America Great Again for all Americans, and I’m proud to join him in that fight.
Robert Yang is a 2015 graduate of the University of St. Thomas and is chair of the Asian American Republicans of Minnesota.