Hi, my name is Haiman Wong and I am from San Jose, California. I am currently a second year student studying Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG) at American University in Washington, DC in the Politics, Policy, and Law Three-Year Scholars Program. I am also part of the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program where I am specializing in the intersectionality of technology, education, and law. I am also pursuing a minor in Information Systems and Technology. Subjects and issue areas that I am most passionate about include rhetoric, government, law, cybersecurity, and domestic public policy (specifically on issues such as education, economics, tech regulation, and cybersecurity). I am open to all opportunities as my interests and experiences cover a wide range of issues and fields, but I aspire to ultimately end with a career in law, technology, and cybersecurity.
My passion for public affairs started my sophomore year of high school, which, if you asked most people within my circles, is a fact that few are willing to believe. For twelve years of my life, I was dedicated to pursuing my dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. I graduated with an Applied Math, Science, and Engineering major and a Conservatory of the Arts Music Minor in high school. I was also part of the officer team in my high school’s Forensics Club and completed various research projects of my own, including a project on the effects of GMOs on human health and development. I also sequenced DNA and worked with the Rosetta Institute of Biomedical Research at UC Berkeley over the summer of my freshman year in efforts to understand and further research of cancer and molecular biology.
Though those experiences were undoubtedly invaluable, joining my high school’s parliamentary debate team my sophomore year is what ultimately completely changed my career path in ways I never would have anticipated. I still remember the opening remarks from my coach that very first day I joined the team. My coach stated, “It takes a hundred men to move a mountain, but it only takes one right word to move a hundred men.” From there, the shortest version of this journey that I can share here is that debate taught me that every word has meaning and that every voice matters. Through debate, I found an innate love and an insatiable passion for rhetoric, politics, and education that I never would have known was within me, had I not joined debate. I never saw myself as a debater, but six months after joining the team, I was elected to be the Vice of President of Tournaments. This position required me to administer all the logistics for the team which included everything imaginable such as registering our teams for tournaments, facilitating relationships between parents and team members, and managing all our fines and fees. Serving as my team’s Vice President of Tournaments taught me not only how to manage high stress, but also how to be flexible and patient when plans go awry. I also learned how to make quick decisions and became practiced at articulating those decisions to my team in a manner that promoted team unity and peace in unstable situations.
Exactly one year after I was elected Vice President of Tournaments, I was elected by my team to be the first female president. I look back on this fondly not because of my own personal achievements, but because I can proudly say that the team now is still retaining the culture I fought and advocated for even though I’m across the country. It is a culture where our debate team is a community where everyone can find their voice, as I did, and a place where each member learns to empower others in and out of our team. I led with the goal of making debate a place where my members learn to be empathetic and authentic. Perhaps it is because I never saw myself as a debater or a public affairs major that is the very reason why I am more driven than ever to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way and to make my own opportunities in situations where hope seems lost.
Never really foreseeing that I would be who I am today also means that my values and perspectives on the field of public affairs and debate is unique from my peers who have always known that they were proficient debaters and wanted to pursue a career in public affairs and law. I am better able to empathize with those who see public speaking, debate, or even our current political scene as a daunting scene to enter because I was also one of them. I recognize that it is only through inspiring leaders and mentors in my own life that I have been empowered to maximize my full potential which inspires me to be that person for others. I am also more open-minded and flexible to change because I, myself pursued such a drastic change in my career path.
Though my experience includes interning for the Sergio Jiminez campaign for San Jose City Council, working for over a year at Banana Republic, volunteering on the student board for March for Our Lives San Jose last year, and founding multiple tutoring programs for my community through my church and high school, I would say that the common denominator in everything that I do is the simple goal of making the most of every opportunity that comes my way and seeking to serve authentically above all else. Through my experiences, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to hone and test my gifts of communication, leadership, individualization, strategic planning, and deliberation. Whether it’s stepping completely out of my comfort zone into an unfamiliar field, working within a team where I’m the one that has the most learning to do, or being tested as a leader of a challenging team, I aspire to further develop my skills both through the experiences that will come and through the School of Public Affairs Leadership program. I ultimately aspire to apply and adapt my leadership style and skills to any community that I join.
Leadership to me is not just a simple passion, a position, or a responsibility. Leadership to me is service to others. I believe that leadership is putting other people’s needs and desires before your own and doing everything in your power to provide your team with the resources they need. I am here to challenge myself to be the best that I can be at all times. I am here to support, but I am also here to empower my team and myself to redefining the established limits in our field. I look forward to connecting and working with you soon!