Last Wednesday evening, May 11th, the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) kicked off its 60th Anniversary celebrations with a Gala at Tao downtown. ACC was founded in 1963 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd to advance international dialogue, understanding, and respect through cultural exchange activities in Asia and the United States. As a global organization based in New York, Hong Kong, Manila, Taipei, and Tokyo, ACC has invested more than $100M to support over 6000 exchanges across 16 artistic disciplines and 26 counties and regions.
With Ambassador Caroline Kennedy as Honorary Chair of the evening, ACC honored Akiko Yamazaki, Chairman Emeritus of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco for her visionary leadership of the institution and her tireless promotion of Asian artists and works of art. Two John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards were also presented to ACC alumni Midori and Cai Guo-Qiang by Hope Aldrich, daughter of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and Charles Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller 3rd.
Among the supporters and guests present were: Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, Clara and Joe Tsai, Kengo Kuma, Yama and Goodwin Gaw, Susan and David Rockefeller, Daphne King and Michael Yao, Patty Pei, Wendi Deng, Valerie Rockefeller, Charles Rockefeller, ACC Board Chair Wendy O’Neill, David Raynor, Kazuko and Yutaka Aso, ACC Executive Director Judy Kim, Mercedes Zobel, Teresa and Bruce Colley, Sofia Zobel Elizade, Josie Cruz Natori, Peggy Guiness, Xin Zhang, Shi Yi Pan, Masako and Yoichiro Ushioda, Hong Hong Wu and Cai Guo-Qiang, Cori and Tony Bates, Midori, Ellen and Dominic Ng, Ann Rockefeller Roberts, Ann and Joseph Pierson, Edward Tang, Alina Cho, Gail and Tony Alvarez, Diane and Stephen Volk, Sylvia de Cuevas, Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky, Carla Villacorte, Janet Nathanail and Bill Flanz, Jin Xing and Heinz-Gerd Oidtmann, President of the Asian Art Museum Salle Yoo, Jeff Gray, Nelson Woo, Riccardo Salmona, Celena Wang, and Rachel Blankfein.
On Saturday, May 14, 2022, the Ellis Island Honors Society (EIHS) hosted the 35th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony, where 85 medalists were recognized for their leadership and service within their communities and professions while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. The black-tie gala was held in Ellis Island’s Great Hall, the original registry room and gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S. The 2022 medalists received and celebrated their awards in front of an iconic view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline.
The 35th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony included: Chairman & CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation and founder of SiriusXM, Martine Rothblatt; actor, Nazanin Boniadi; founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Nancy Brinker; Global Customer Director at The Coca-Cola Company, Sarah Beth Brown; celebrity hair stylist, Martino Cartier; actor, comedienne, author, and motivational speaker, Kathy Buckley; Tony Award winning producer, Bonnie Comley; California Congressman, Salud Carbajal; philanthropists, Howard and Wendy Cox; Co-Chairman & CEO of Monarch Casino, John Farahi; mechanical engineering professor and astronaut, Michael Massimino; Vice Chairman of UBS America, Edward Montero; professional golfer and founder of Chi Chi Rodriguez Management Group, Juan ‘Chi Chi’ Rodriguez; Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, General Michael Garrett; former United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson; and Chairman & CEO, RingCentral, Vlad Shmunis, among others. To see the full list of 2022 recipients, please visit: http://medalists.eihonors.org/
The evening commenced with an introduction from co-masters of ceremony, Marvin Scott and Jill Nicolini of WPIX, followed by opening remarks from EIHS chairman Nasser Kazeminy. “This year’s distinguished medalists come from a range of industries and backgrounds,” Kazeminy shared. “We honor them, not for where they came from, but for what they bring to our great nation. Each of them represent a thread from which the fabric of this great nation is woven. A fabric rich in color and diversity and incapable of being torn apart.”
Additional speakers included medalists General Michael Garrett, Nancy Brinker, Jeh Johnson, Nazanin Boniadi, Vlad Shmunis, Edward Montero, and Martine Rothblatt.
Nazanin Boniadi reflected on what Ellis Island represents in 2022 in particular, sharing, “It doesn’t escape me… how important it is that the promise of Ellis Island lives on. Especially for the people who are caught between a homeland where their lives are at risk and an international community that rejects them.”
Likewise, Martine Rothblatt spoke on lessons learned by her immigrant ancestors sharing, “never to give up, to be persistent, to keep trying because if you do not give up, you will succeed and that’s the lesson of immigrants in America.”
Concluding the evening, Ukrainian-born Vlad Shmunis spoke on his hopes for the future. “We would like to simply wish that this country and this spirit and this humanity continues for a long, long time so our children, grandchildren, and many generations afterwards can experience this very wonderful place of America.”
Following the event, guests were ferried back to Manhattan as fireworks lit up the sky in their honor.
For over 35 years, the Ellis Island Honors Society has been fostering tolerance, respect, and understanding among diverse religious, ethnic, and cultural groups by celebrating distinguished Americans of immigrant descent and others of remarkable character for their contributions to the world. EIHS is a 501(c)3 non-profit, which, in addition to presenting the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, is a humanitarian organization supporting educational opportunities for students with immigrant heritage and preserving the Ellis Island National Monument.
The Ellis Island Medals of Honor ranks among the nation’s most renowned awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.
In addition to honoring and promoting examples of immigrant contributions to the United States, the Ellis Island Honors Society supports the preservation of the Ellis Island National Monument, ensuring this gateway of hope is available for future generations of visitors. Ellis Island Honors Society also supports the education of students with immigrant heritage and raises funds for culturally focused events, emergency relief, and humanitarian programs by mobilizing its community of Ellis Island Honor Recipients.
Photographs by Manuel Molina Martagon (ACC); Rob Rich (Ellis Island).