Salman Rushdie and Don H. Liu Receive 2005 Justice in Action Awards at AALDEF Lunar New Year Gala

Posted by Lia Chang on Thursday, 17 February 2005.

Salman Rushdie and Don H. Liu Receive 2005 Justice in Action Awards at AALDEF Lunar New Year Gala

More than 900 guests from across the country attended the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Funds Lunar New Year Gala on February 7th at PIER SIXTY on the Hudson River in New York City, honoring writer Salman Rushdie and attorney Don H. Liu--two individuals whose boldness, integrity, and commitment offered much inspiration for the Year of the Rooster.

Korean American attorney Don Liu is senior vice president and general counsel of IKON Office Solutions, currently one of only four Asian Americans serving as general counsel in a Fortune 500 company. Stewart Pollock, former Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, presented the Justice in Action award to Liu. After warming up the crowd with anecdotes of his corporate coming-of-age as an idealist and as an Asian American, Liu spoke fondly about his experience on the AALDEF Board of Directors, where he served for over a decade. As a board member, he was once asked to intervene on behalf of a Chinese high school student who was repeatedly beaten by his classmates in Westchester. Instead of pressing charges against the assailants, AALDEF convened a meeting of their parents, who pledged to make sure the beatings stopped. "Despite its name, AALDEF is not only about the courts or the law, but about helping people," said Liu.

Presenting the award to author Salman Rushdie was Vietnamese American writer Monique Truong, who received the 2004 New York Public Library Young Lions Award for her first novel, The Book of Salt. Rushdie, who is currently President of PEN American Center, spoke with great eloquence about his opposition to the USA Patriot Act, which has had a stifling impact on the First Amendment and the civil liberties of all Americans. His novel, The Satanic Verses, led Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a death sentence against him in 1989. For over a decade, Rushdie lived in exile until the fatwa was lifted, noting that Censorship denies for all a life without fear. Rushdie criticized current governmental policies that suppress dissent and freedom of expression and have targeted South Asians and Muslims for discriminatory treatment after September 11. He counseled: There are battles we have to fight, and it surprises me that when we fight them, the other side often backs down, said Rushdie. When we dare to fight them, we can win.

Each year, AALDEF presents Justice in Action awards to individuals and organizations that advance social justice and racial equality. Past honorees have included Mira Nair, Yoko Ono, Maya Lin, David Henry Hwang, Yale Law School dean Harold Koh, Japanese American redress advocates Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, and New York Times photojournalist Dith Pran. The event emcees were Cindy Hsu and Arthur Chien of WCBS-TV.

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