Outstanding Americans by Choice

Image of an American by Choice Certificate

The Outstanding Americans by Choice initiative recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens. Through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship, recipients of this honor have demonstrated their commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.

USCIS will recognize naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to both their community and their adopted country on a case-by-case basis.

2021 Outstanding Americans by Choice Recipients


Picture of Sandy Dang
Event date and location: May 27, 2021, Camp Springs, MD

Sandy Hoa Dang
Co-founder and Principal, Coinnovate Consulting
Washington, DC

Sandy Dang is co-founder and principal of Coinnovate Consulting in Washington D.C., which provides leadership training programs for corporations, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and academic institutions. Dang has cultivated a team of professionals to build the next generation of leaders. Her passion is to help young people maximize their leadership potential to benefit society.

At ten years old, Dang and her ethnic-Chinese family fled Hanoi, Vietnam, and spent weeks at sea between China and Hong Kong, only to end up in a series of refugee camps. Over three years, she received no formal education. At thirteen, she and her family resettled in the United States in 1981, first in Salt Lake City, Utah, then in Brooklyn, New York. Because of her personal experiences and the hardship that she endured in a new country, Dang has devoted her career to empowering young people. For more than a decade, she served as founder and executive director of Asian American Leadership, Empowerment, and Development, an organization that supports immigrant and refugee families through a broad array of educational and social services. 

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Dang to serve on the Board of Directors of the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), and from 2014-2018 she served as executive director of VEF, a special initiative by the U.S. Congress to strengthen bilateral relations between the United States and Vietnam through educational exchanges related to science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and technology. During her tenure, Dang established a leadership development program helping hundreds of VEF Fellows.

Dang holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Duke University, a Master of Social Work from Catholic University of America, and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to English, she is fluent in Cantonese and Vietnamese.

Picture of a Nguyen Dinh Thang
Event date and location: May 27, 2021, Camp Springs, MD

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang
Chief Executive Officer and President, Boat People SOS
Falls Church, VA

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang first joined Boat People SOS (BPSOS) in 1988 as a volunteer. In 1995 he launched an advocacy campaign that resulted in the resettlement of over 18,000 former boat people from Vietnam to the United States. In 1997, Dr. Thang initiated a long-term effort to build capacity for the Vietnamese American community. He has since built BPSOS from a small, all-volunteer organization into the largest Vietnamese American non-profit organization. BPSOS has operations in half a dozen locations in the United States and a regional headquarters in Southeast Asia and has a vast Vietnamese-language media network. Simultaneously, Dr. Thang has mentored over 50 faith-based and community-based organizations and secured $4 million to support their work.

Since 1989, Dr. Thang has testified before Congress on human rights issues, most recently in 2018, where he raised awareness of Vietnam’s imprisonment of 170 religious and political prisoners of conscience.  For the past two decades, Dr. Thang has launched many national and international initiatives, including Legal Assistance for Vietnamese Asylum Seekers and Center for Asylum Protection, that provide legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers in the first asylum countries; Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia, which has rescued or assisted in the rescue of 11,000 victims of sex and labor trafficking in 20 countries; the Disaster Relief and Restore Program, which has helped tens of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina (2005), the BP Oil Spill (2010), and Hurricane Harvey (2017), among others; the Renewing Democracy Fund, which trains young leaders and encourages Vietnamese American participation in American politics. Dr. Thang has received numerous awards for his contributions to the United States, refugee populations, and global human rights. 

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