2009 Outstanding American by Choice Recipients
The Honorable Anh "Joseph" Cao
U.S. Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao joined the 111th Congress on January 6, 2009 representing the 2nd district of Louisiana. He was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. His father, an officer with the South Vietnamese Army, was imprisoned by the Communists. At the age of eight, Joseph escaped to the United States with two of his siblings. He learned English, thrived in school, and earned a degree in physics from Baylor University.
Representative Cao first arrived in New Orleans in 1992. He left to earn a graduate degree in philosophy from Fordham University, returning to Loyola University to teach philosophy and ethics. Afterwards, he attained a law degree from Loyola Law School. In Washington, DC, he became an advocate for refugees, future Americas who embody a can-do spirit and strong work ethic. In 2002, he was chosen by Archbishop Alfred Hughes to become a member of the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressing women's rights in the Catholic Church, social justice, child abuse, and the Catholic response to Hurricane Katrina.
Congressman Cao is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Dr. Subir Chowdhury
Subir Chowdhury was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh in 1967. He left his family in 1991 to come to the United States and eventually settled in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Dr. Chowdhury became a naturalized citizen in 2004. He is the author of 12 books on business quality management, including international bestsellers, "The Power of Six Sigma," "Design For Six Sigma," and "Management 21C." His most recent business book is "The Ice Cream Maker." Dr. Chowdhury has received numerous international awards for leadership in quality management. He is an honorary member of the World Innovation Foundation. He has been honored with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Gold Medal, the Society of Automotive Engineers Henry Ford Award, and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for Engineering, Science and Technology, as well as the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Dr. Chowdhury holds an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India. He earned a graduate degree in industrial management from Central Michigan University, and an honorary doctorate in engineering from the Michigan Technological University. In 2006, Dr. Chowdhury and his wife Malini created a foundation that strives to improve the quality of life for individuals and provide a visible and positive impact on communities. The foundation also supports many other programs focusing on education, health, and the arts.
Sergeant Peter C. Lemon (Retired)
Born in Canada, Peter C. Lemon received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Sgt. Lemon is one of the youngest surviving recipients and only living Canadian-born recipient. Seven years after he became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Sgt. Lemon was serving in a U.S. Army Ranger platoon based in Vietnam in 1970. On the night of April 1, his base came under heavy enemy attack. He was wounded three times during the combat, but his determined efforts successfully drove the enemy from position. He then collapsed from multiple wounds and exhaustion. Once he regained consciousness at an aid station, Sgt. Lemon refused medical evacuation until his more seriously wounded comrades had been evacuated.
Today, Sgt. Lemon is the proud father of three children. He is the author of a book and the producer of a documentary film entitled, "Beyond the Medal: A Journey from Their Hearts to Yours," which he dedicated to his fallen comrades. Sgt. Lemon is also an inductee of the elite Ranger Hall of Fame and the recipient of the “Humanitarian Alumni of the Year” at his graduate alma mater, the University of Northern Colorado. Among his volunteer efforts, Sgt. Lemon is working with seriously wounded active duty veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Eva A. Millona
Eva A. Millona is the Executive Director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). She has been with the organization since July 1999. Ms. Millona focuses on providing analyses of federal and state legislation on immigration and naturalization issues, and also on reviewing and analyzing policy changes that affect immigrant communities eligible for immigration benefits.
Prior to joining MIRA, Ms. Millona directed the resettlement program at the Friendly House, Inc in central Massachusetts. In her native Albania, she practiced civil and criminal law. From 1989-1992, Ms. Millona served as a judge in Tirana’s District Court. She is currently the co-chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants.
Eartha Dengler is the Founder of the Immigrant City Archives in Lawrence, MA. Mrs. Dengler was born near Hamburg, Germany and lived through World War II in extreme hardship and deprivation. She and her husband left Germany for the United States in 1951 with their four-year old daughter. Mrs. Dengler and her family eventually settled in Lawrence where she started the Immigrant City Archives in 1979 with a limited budget and a few dedicated volunteers.
In an era when immigrant histories were being forgotten and records discarded, Mrs. Dengler sought to collect documents concerning Lawrence's rich immigrant heritage of the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the archives have grown to more than 750 oral histories, photographs, city records, and documents - from maps, directories and census data to School Committee meeting minutes from the 1850s.
Virginia M. C. da Mota
Virginia M. C. da Mota, born in the Azores – a Portuguese Archipelago, was an educator in the United States for more than 32 years before retiring in 1997. She began her career teaching in a classroom and finished her career as the Director of the Office of Integrated Social Services at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
During her career, she administered a myriad of key programs including: comprehensive school health; nutrition; character education; safe and drug free schools; child opportunity zone family centers; early childhood education; and other programs. These programs were designed to assist schools to provide safe, healthy, and nurturing learning environments for students.
Eskinder Negash is the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ORR provides people in need, including refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied alien children, and survivors of torture with critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society. Mr. Negash brings nearly 30 years of experience working on behalf of refugees and immigrants, and managing non-profit social service agencies. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Negash served as the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a non-governmental, non-profit international organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide.
Before joining USCRI, Mr. Negash served as Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the International Institute of Los Angeles for 15 years. Mr. Negash served as a board member with several non-profit organizations, including two years as chair of the Joint Voluntary Agencies Committee of California, chair of the California State Refugee Advisory Council, board member of Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and chair of the Finance Committee.
Maria Hinojosa was born in Mexico City, Mexico and arrived in the United States with her parents at the age of one. Her family moved to the United States when her father, a research physician, was offered an opportunity to expand his work. The family eventually settled in Chicago, IL.
Ms. Hinojosa is the Senior Correspondent for the Emmy® Award-winning broadcast news magazine NOW on PBS. Ms. Hinojosa is also the anchor and managing editor of NPR's Latino USA, and the anchor of her own Emmy® Award-winning talk show One on One with Maria Hinojosa. Ms. Hinojosa has won top honors in American journalism including two Emmy® Awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged, and the Overseas Press Club's Edward R. Murrow Award for best documentary for her groundbreaking NOW on PBS special "Child Brides: Stolen Lives." Prior to joining NOW in 2005, Ms. Hinojosa spent eight years as the Urban Affairs Correspondent for CNN. Ms. Hinojosa is also an author of two books including a motherhood memoir. Ms. Hinojosa was named one of the "25 Most Influential Working Mothers in America" by Working Mother magazine.