Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Tribute To Ms. Bernie Wong, President Of The Chinese American Service League On Her Receipt Of President Obama’S Champion Of Change Award At The White House

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I consider Ms. Bernie Wong to be among the very best of Social Workers in the United States of America or any place else in the world today. Bernie is being cited by President Obama for her outstanding leadership and development of the Chinese American Service League in Chicago. The Champion of the ``Change Award,'' recognizes a small select group of Americans who embody, innovate, educate and build. The Award ceremony is held at the White House to honor those who exemplify Cesar Chavez's core values including service to other, knowledge, innovation, acceptance of all people, and respect for life and the environment. Bernie Wong is being recognized for her tireless efforts on behalf of Chinese Chicagoans. Ms. Wong is one of ten individuals nationwide to receive this prestigious honor.

Bernie Wong was the youngest of seven children and grew up poor, but never realized it. A product of a catholic school upbringing, Bernie learned early in life the meaning of generosity and compassion for others. Bernie's mother was always available to help others in need and would take Bernie and her siblings to visit the sick every week and provide food for people. Experiences in Bernie early years set the stage for her mission driven approach to serving others with dignity and respect. At eighteen, Bernie left Hong Kong for Sioux City, Iowa where she earned a four year scholarship to pursue a Bachelors' Degree in Sociology from Briar Cliff College. She went on to earn a Masters' Degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Bernie truly understand what poor new immigrants face when confronted by completely different culture and language. This realization gave her the courage to gather a few friends and begin the task of building the Chinese American Service League from the ground up.

Founded in 1978, with a desk and chairs, the Chinese American Service League is now the largest and most comprehensive social service agency in the Midwest dedicated to the needs of Asian Americans. Housed in the award winning Kam L. Liu Building, and supported by an annual budget of $12 million, CASL's program reach over 17,000 clients each year. CASL services everyone in need, but primarily focuses on serving Chinese American immigrants in the metropolitan Chicago area. CASL's clients are low-income and a significant portion served is newly arrived immigrants. These individuals often have little formal education and possess a few transferable skills. Since 90% of CASL's clients speak little to no English, they find themselves unable to access needed social services. CASL provides a critical safety-net by employing over 400 multilingual professionals and support staff. CASL serves a vital niche in the community, often taking referrals from other social service agencies, neighborhood organizations, and government institutions in order to serve clients with specific language or other special needs. Bernie is a true she-roe and leader in her community. She is indeed a champion of change and I salute President Obama for recognizing it. She deserves every accolade that we can shower upon her.