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Celebrating Diversity: Commonwealth Coffee Honors AANHPI Heritage Month

On May 23, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, hosted a Commonwealth coffee event in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. 

The event, which was held in Room SDG-11 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, brought together a diverse group of leaders from across Virginia’s AANHPI communities and provided a unique opportunity for community leaders to get together, share their perspectives, and engage in meaningful dialogue. 

From faith leaders, government officials, community organizers, civic engagement groups, and community service organizations, many activists  were eager to engage with the Senators and their staff. Attendees were greeted by a warm atmosphere of mutual respect and recognition, as the event aimed to honor the contributions and heritage of the AANHPI community in Virginia and beyond.

Bringing the community together

Senator Warner expressed his pride in co-hosting the event. “The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community is the fastest growing in Virginia, with over 700,000 people who make our Commonwealth stronger,” said Warner, adding, “I’m proud to co-host this Commonwealth Coffee in an effort to bring the community together, celebrate their many economic and cultural contributions, and honor their great heritage and history.”

Senator Kaine echoed this sentiment, highlighting the many vibrant communities across Virginia and the unique contributions they make to help their state thrive. “The thing that makes me happiest is being out and around Virginia and seeing the really cool communities that exist all over the Commonwealth — and our Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian community… —your contribution to the richness of this Commonwealth is just so manifest,” he said. “That’s why we love doing this event.”

Representative Bobby Scott, the only current Member of Congress with Filipino ancestry, also shared his enthusiasm. “I was proud to co-host this Commonwealth Coffee with Senators Warner and Kaine honoring Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month,” said Scott, adding, “It was great to be with so many AANHPI community leaders from across the Commonwealth. I look forward to our continued work together.”

Milestones in the making

A highlight of the event was the recognition of Jasmine Yoon, recently confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. District Judge in the Western District of Virginia (WDVA). Yoon is the first Asian American judge on the federal judiciary in Virginia, a historic milestone celebrated by all attendees. Senator Kaine brought her on stage to acknowledge this achievement. 

“We were really, really happy — I guess it was about a month ago — when we had the vote on the Senate floor… She is the first Asian American to be on the federal bench in Virginia… that’s a really important thing, obviously, because we want the bench to look like Virginia looks…” said Kaine

In her remarks, Judge Yoon emphasized the importance of diversity in the judiciary. “When the judiciary reflects the community that it serves, it gains legitimacy and trust of people who appear before the court. That was part of the reasons why I applied for this position,” said Yoon, adding, “And never did I think that I would be here today, but I’m looking forward to serving that function and also, I will not forget the label of being the first AAPI federal judge in the Commonwealth — it’s a heavy title, but I will wear it proudly and with grace and gratitude.”

The Commonwealth coffee event was not just a celebration but also a reaffirmation of the commitment to diversity and inclusion within the state’s leadership. It underscored the invaluable contributions of the AANHPI community to the cultural and economic fabric of Virginia, while fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among all attendees.