President Obama Lauds USPAACC Success Story in San Francisco Speech

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From refugee to CEO, Andrew Ly’s story of triumph at forefront of Obama’s immigration reform push


That’s what America is about. This is the place where you can reach for something better if you work hard.

In an impassioned speech on immigration reform delivered on November 25 in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, President Barack Obama singled out USPAACC Member Andrew Ly’s remarkable success story – from refugee to Founder, President and CEO of Sugar Bowl Bakery – in a crowd assembled at the Betty Ong Recreation Center that included U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Asian American Congressional Representatives Judy Chu and Mike Honda, former mayor and current California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, members of the Board of Supervisors, and heads of city agencies. The address was televised live nationwide.

President Obama touted the economic benefits the country would see if the Senate bill became law, An overhaul of the immigration system would lead to $1.4 trillion growth over the next 20 years.

The President also told the story of Andrew (a recipient of the USPAACC/Wells Fargo Asian Business Leadership Award in 2007), who, without speaking a word of English and with only a few dollars in his pocket, came to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee.

With his four brothers, Andrew bought a tiny coffee shop with their pooled meager savings, and founded Sugar Bowl Bakery in 1984. Today, Sugar Bowl Bakery’s revenue exceeds $60 million and is one of the largest family-owned and operated bakeries in Northern California, with customers worldwide including Costco, Safeway and large hotels.

Andrew’s success story came to the attention of President Obama after the White House asked USPAACC for recommendation of a successful Asian American business whose inspiring immigrant story could be shared to a wider audience.

Excerpt from President Obama’s speech:

“And I’ll just give you one example to wrap up. Andrew Ly is here today. Where’s Andrew? He’s around here somewhere. There he is. Now, Andrew has got an amazing story. Andrew grew up in Vietnam, and he and his four brothers tried three times to flee to the United States. Obviously, the country was going through all kinds of difficulties. So three times, they tried; three times, they failed. On the fourth try, their boat –- filled with 140 refugees -- is that right, Andrew -– was attacked by pirates.

But the Lys and their family eventually made it to Malaysia, and then they eventually made it here to San Francisco. And they learned English, and they worked as handymen, and they worked as seamstresses. And eventually, Andrew and his brothers earned enough money to buy a small bakery. And they started making donuts, and they started selling them to Chinese restaurants. And with a lot of hard work and a little luck, the Sugar Bowl Bakery today is a $60 million business. (Applause)

So these humble and striving immigrants from Vietnam now employ more than 300 Americans. They’re supplying pastries to Costco and Safeway, and almost every hotel and hospital in San Francisco. And I don't know if Andrew brought me any samples, but -- (laughter) -- they must be pretty good. (Laughter)

And Andrew says, ‘We came here as boat people, so we don’t take things for granted. We know this is the best country in the world if you work hard.’ That’s what America is about. This is the place where you can reach for something better if you work hard. This is the country our parents and our grandparents and waves of immigrants before them built for us. And it falls on each new generation to keep it that way. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t have its back to the world. The Statue of Liberty faces the world and raises its light to the world.

When Chinese immigrants came to this city in search of “Gold Mountain,” they weren’t looking just for physical riches. They were looking for freedom and opportunity. They knew that what makes us American is not a question of what we look like or what our names are -- because we look like the world. You got a President named Obama. (Laughter and applause) What makes us American is our shared belief in certain enduring principles, our allegiance to a set of ideals, to a creed, to the enduring promise of this country."

The full transcript of the President’s speech can be found at the following web link:

Founded in 1984 as a non-profit and non-partisan organization, USPAACC is headquartered in Washington, DC with Regional Chapters in CA, TX, NY, GA, IL, CT, DC-MD-VA National Capital Area. USPAACC is the single unified voice for equal opportunity for Asian American businesses. We promote and propel economic growth by opening doors to business, educational and professional opportunities for Asian Americans and their business partners in corporate America, government at the federal, state and local levels, and the small and minority business community. For 28 years, USPAACC has served and will continue to serve as the gateway to large corporate and government contracts, top-caliber Asian American and small and minority suppliers, key information about Asian Americans and business opportunities in the dynamic Asia-Pacific market.

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