March 18 Speaker: Lee Pao Xiong, Concordia University’s Center for Hmong Studies

Nate Bostrom introduced Lee Pao Xiong, the founding Director of the Center for Hmong and East Asian Studies, and Professor of Hmong Studies and American Government at Concordia University. Throughout his distinguished career, Xiong served as the Director of Housing Policy and Development for the City of Minneapolis, President and CEO of The Urban Coalition, Executive Director of the State Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotan, Hmong American Partnership and the Hmong Youth Association of Minnesota. Previously, he has also served on the staff of Minnesota State Senator, Joe Bertram, and staff intern with United States Senator, Carl Levin, of Michigan in Washington, DC.

Having grown up on the CIA military base Long Tieng, Lee Pao Xiong, was no stranger to war even as a child. After evacuating Laos, Xiong’s family was sent to a Thai refugee camp; in 1976 his father made the decision to move the family to the United States. His early life and experiences as a young refugee are included in the 2017 TPT Twin Cities PBS’s documentary “Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: America’s Secret War”, viewable online at www.mnvietnam.org

From 1997 to 2003, Lee Pao represented the City of St. Paul, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights on the Metropolitan Council, as an appointee of Governor Jesses Ventura. As a Councilmember, he chaired the Livable Communities Committee, which approves comprehensive plans for over 170 cities, provides funding for affordable housing as well as Section 8 housing for low-income communities. He also co-chaired the Central Corridor Coordinating Committees, which oversaw the planning process for the Green Line on University Avenue, connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In 2000, President Clinton appointed Lee Pao Xiong to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to advise on issues relating to the 10 plus million Asian Americans in the United States, making him the first Hmong presidential appointee in the nation.

Mr. Xiong provided some of the 5,000-year history of the Hmong people as they interacted with other groups in various locations in southeast Asia. The conflicts since World War 2 heavily affected the Hmong, leading to a large-scale exodus away from Communist regimes spreading through the region in 1975.  Ending up in a more hospitable Minnesota, Mr. Xiong’s hard work and Hmong community support, proved that success for immigrants and refugees is possible, given hard work, welcoming cities, and large amounts of situational luck. He noted that racism and prejudice are still present, and anti-Asian sentiments due to COVID provide moments of tested faith in our country’s cherished protections.  Mr. Xiong’s attitude is still “America is the best place to live!”

The Center for Hmong Studies prepares teachers, records oral histories of a group without a written language, research resources and museum exhibits of the Hmong culture.

To contact Mr. Xiong: email xiong@csp.edu

To learn more about the Center: https://www.csp.edu/center-for-hmong-studies/