If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve been a big fan of former figure skater and Olympian Michelle Kwan.
These days, Michelle is a Surrogate Outreach Coordinator for the Hillary [Clinton] for President campaign. Back in mid-October, Michelle happened to be in San Francisco for her first ever fundraiser for Clinton and I had a chance to chat with her informally for quite a bit.
When I first met Michelle, I told her I was a big fan of hers and got to see her perform in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when she performed in the women’s figure skating finals – the short program. She was pleased to hear that, especially that I had seen her in the short program (where she came in first).
I asked how she got interested in public service and politics and asked if that was something she’d always been interested in while growing up? She said no, public service nor politics was something that was of any particular interest in her family while growing up. Her parents emigrated from Hong Kong and were working hard to live the American Dream (in the U.S., her father began work as a busboy, then got a job with the telephone company and bought a Chinese restaurant in Torrance, a suburb of LA).
Michelle had been skating literally almost her entire life, yet her skating career was winding down and she had to think what she was going to do for the rest of her life as she retired – something that a lot of professional athletes have to think hard about.
Her interest in public service happened by chance – and she felt that things happen for a reason. When Michelle was first invited to her first State dinner at The White House where then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, reached out to Kwan and eventually became in November 2006, a public diplomacy ambassador. And later, Michelle worked in the State Department when Clinton was Secretary of State.
Kwan spoke to the larger group of Hillary Clinton supporters and why she was supporting Clinton, what she was doing for the campaign and then answered some questions from the audience (including my favorite question: when was she running for public office?)
As a Surrogate Outreach Coordinator, Michelle spends her time coordinating Hillary Clinton’s – surrogates, such as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,- for various events, and sometimes even filling in for them when there’s a conflict or someone can’t make it.
Michelle was interested in trying to get more Asian Americans involved in politics and to vote and recognized that many, like her parents while growing up are pretty busy trying to realize the American dream. However, she also understood that Asian Americans could be a presidential swing vote in places Maryland and Nevada.
As someone who has followed Michelle’s figure skating, as well as her public service and political career, it was a real honor and pleasure to meet her – and gratifying to find someone so accomplished who was so down-to-earth and humble. When I had posted my photo with Michelle on Facebook, a lot of people thought we made a good lucking couple – too bad she’s already married! 🙁 One thing for sure is that Michelle has a lot of patience – everyone attending was a fan of hers as well as a Clinton supporter, and everybody wanted a photo with her. I guess that comes with the territory of being so well admired, liked and well known.