King County has always been my home. As refugees fleeing the Vietnam war, my parents were resettled in public housing in White Center, where I was born. At the time, White Center was a hub for immigrants and refugees in search of a brighter future for their families. My mother worked as a seamstress, and my father as a mechanic, supporting our family in this new country.
My community raised me, and instilled in me a feeling of deep gratitude, and responsibility.
When I was 7, my father was in a terrible car accident that turned our world upside down. As far too many families have experienced, the high cost of healthcare and mounting medical bills made it incredibly difficult – mentally, emotionally and financially. My father required constant care, which my family provided him. In high school, my siblings and I would take turns leaving during lunch to take care of him, returning to class to finish out the school day.
Some of my most powerful memories of those years caring for him were experiencing how our community supported us. The White Center food bank ensured we had food to eat; the Salvation Army provided gifts in the holiday season; and time after time, neighbors showed up for us.
My community shaped my values of service and servant leadership.
In high school, I started working early to support our family. At 14, I worked after class at my school as a janitor to pay for tuition. At 15, I took various routes of (the nearly nonexistent) public transportation to work at the IMAX theater on the waterfront. What would have taken me 15 minutes if I could afford a car, took me 90 minutes by bus.
I carry these lived experiences with me to work every day. I carry the stories of my neighbors and community members who struggled to make ends meet, but still had capacity to support their neighbors in need. We built new structures to support each other, when the system wasn’t built for us.
My community gave me a voice to advocate for my family, and so many others facing the personal impact of systemic inequality.
It’s important to me to carry the lessons of my upbringing into my career and nonprofit service. Professionally, I have worked in both the private and public sectors. I advise Senior Executives at one of the largest companies in the world, and support startup companies and small businesses as they get started.
I have been proud to serve on the Board of Wellspring Family Services, which helps thousands of families across King County to end the cycle of homelessness. I served on King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight Community Advisory Committee, and was a 2018 Jackson Leadership Fellow, completing a 9-month intensive leadership program with civic leaders from across the state.
After the death of Burien resident Tommy Le in 2017, I felt the call to step up in a way that was bold, and new to me. I launched my campaign for the 34th District State Senate seat to bring our voices to Olympia. In an 11-way race, outspent 4:1, our campaign was victorious. Our team ran a people-powered campaign, knocking on thousands of doors and refusing corporate PAC contributions. We proved that people will always come before politics. I was proud to be the first Vietnamese American elected to the Washington State Senate, joining the most diverse legislature in our state’s history.
In addition to being a State Senator and working full-time at Microsoft, I am a very proud father of three energetic children under the age of 5, and live in West Seattle with my wife, Tallie, a former special education teacher in the Highline Public School District.