Monday, December 31, 2012

Malala Yousafzai is 2012 APU Person of the Year

Malala Yousafzai, 15, is’s Person of the Year for 2012!  The young lady had gained fame before 2012 for her work in exposing the ban on female education in parts of Pakistan to the rest of the world. 

In October, gunmen shot Yousafzai in the head and neck when she was riding a school bus to her home.   Currently, she is recovering from her injuries in a hospital in the United Kingdom.

Other candidates
Among the other personalities considered for Person of the Year in 2012 were U.S. President Barack Obama, North Korean Premier Kim Jong-un and South Korean YouTube sensation Psy (Park Jae-sang).

President Obama, whose Asia Pacific credentials stem from his upbringing in Hawai’I and Indonesia, rolled to a rather surprisingly easy victory over contender Mitt Romney in the U.S. presidential election.  The race was “easy” only when looking at election results in hindsight.  During the campaign, the president looked as if he was in trouble on a number of occasions and many doubted whether he could win given the economic situation.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un gained world headlines with tests of the country’s long-range missiles despite the objections of the West.  Indeed, in an unofficial online poll by Time Magazine, which awarded Obama with their online person of the year award, readers voted for Kim by a wide margin.

The other major prospect was South Korean hip hop artist Psy, whose YouTube video Gangnan Style has smashed all previous records for views.  Despite some controversy over some statements made in the past objecting to U.S. involvement in the Iraq War, Psy performed at the White House Christmas celebration.

However, after giving the matter due consideration, it was found that Yousafzai earned the top spot for galvanizing world attention to the plight of women in areas dominated by religious fundamentalism.

Malala Yousafzai  is a native of Mingora,  a town in the Swat District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan .  A member of the once-semi-nomadic Pashtun ethnic group, Malala grew up in an area with significant Taliban influence.

She began speaking out on education for girls and women beginning in September 2008.  A speech that she gave in nearby Peshawar received coverage from media throughout the region.

In early 2009, Yousafzai began blogging for BBC Urdu and she was frank and forthright in attacking the Taliban’s war against female education.  The blog described the fighting going on in Swat District and also the ban on girl’s schools in the region.

Eventually she became chair of the District Child Assembly for swat and she continued her activism by attending the “Open Mind’s” project of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.  In October 2011, Rev. Desmond Tutu announced Malala’s nomination for the International Children's Peace Prize in which she was runner-up. 

In the same year, she won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and she became a national and international star.  The recognition, though, make it easy for her enemies to target her, and last summer the Taliban voted to assassinate her.

Currently, Malala Yousafzai is recovering from her injuries in a British hospital.  She is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery after a bullet slightly grazed her brain although she reportedly has no permanent brain damage

A sign that she has not lost her fighting spirit came yesterday when Yousafzai blasted the Indian government over the handling of the recent Delhi rape case.  

For her courage and her tireless activity to help girls in Pakistan, and by extension, in many other parts of the world, we proudly name Malala Yousafzai as APU’s Person of the Year for 2012.

Friday, December 31, 2010

APU Person of the Year -- Aung Sun Suu Kyi

SACRAMENTO -- Aung Sun Suu Kyi is's Person of the Year for 2010.  The activist was released from house arrest by the Myanmar government on 13 November 2010.

Suu Kyi was also this site's person of the year in 2003.

The November 2010 release was ordered by the Myanmar courts on August 2009.  She was last arrested on May 30, 2003 and her captivity has been extended three times since then.  Her release shortly after the ruling party scored a landslide in nationwide elections is seen by many analysts as a sign of confidence on the part of the government.

The Nobel Prize winner spoke to a jubilant crowd of supporters after her release.  She has been under arrest for 15 of the least 20 years.

On Dec. 27 she vistied her mother's tomb on the latter's 22nd death anniversary.

In a statement released on Friday, Suu Kyi called on the people of Myanmar to pull together for the sake of the nation.  She said that the time was right for "national reconciliation as well as a truly united spirit."

For more biographical information, see our write-up from 2003:

Aung Sun Suu Kyi is the second person to win this honor twice, and the first to win twice on her own.  Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il share the Person of the Year award in 2001 and Kim Jong-il again won on his own in 2006.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Barack Obama is APU Person of the Year in 2009

Barack Obama claimed this year to be America's first "Pacific president." Born and raised mostly in Hawai'i and partly in Indonesia, Obama is celebrating his holidays in the islands with his family and his sister's family. recognizes Barack Obama as a Pacific president and has chosen him as 2009's Person of the Year.

There were some other good contenders this year including Japan's new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama and his "New Age" wife Miyuki.

Miyuki made headlines this year as Japan's first wife of a Japanese prime minister to claim she had visited the planet Venus! The prime minister himself ushered in a new era in Japan when he defeated the old ruling party candidate -- something done only once before since World War II.

Obama's story is well-known by now but indeed he is the first American president raised in the Pacific islands and Asia. Except for four years spent on Java in the nation of Indonesia from ages six to 10, Obama was raised entirely in Hawai'i.

His parents met while both were attending the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. They divorced shortly after he was born, and Obama's mother -- the former Stanley Ann Dunham -- would eventually marry Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian business man.

So indeed, Obama has a genuine Asia Pacific experience, which he proudly claims and still revisits on his regular vacations to Hawai'i. His sister, Maya, is half-Indonesian and she is married to a Canuck of Chinese extraction. Maya and her husband Konrad Ng have two children Suhaila and Savita.

Obama also has the distinction of being the nation's first African American president -- something many Americans did not think was possible yet. Indeed there were some who thought it would take 50 years or 100 years before America would be ready to elect a black president.

Maybe his electoral accomplishment alone would have been enough to earn him the distinction of this year's Person of the Year, however, the campaign was over before the year started.

In his first year in office, Obama faced what was probably the hardest start in the White House since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The country had plunged into the greatest recession since the Great Depression of FDR's time.

He faced the problems of wrapping up one war in Iraq, while trying to solve and increasingly difficult conflict in Afghanistan. And the same time, he was determined to fulfill his promise of reforming America's healthcare system in his first year in office.

Should he succeed in this latter goal -- and things look good right now -- then he will have accomplished the most sweeping social reform since Social Security. Maybe the heathcare bill is not what some of his more progressive supporters were hoping for. However, the reform is still very significant and will greatly change the landscape as we know it today.

The president got a bit of surprise late in the year when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ironically the announcement of his win came just shortly before Obama was to decide to increase America's troop presence in Afghanistan.

Obama also had to swallow a bit of a bitter pill at United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Due to the Senate''s busy schedule working on healthcare reform, they were not able to pass a climate change bill. Still, the president was able to reach a non-binding agreement at Copenhagen, that could be pushed through the legislature next year. That's not a bad turnaround for a nation that refused to participate at all at the last climate change conference in Kyoto. And the new agreement will also include emerging nations like China and India agreeing for the first time to set legally binding limits on their greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes, it was a whirlwind year for both the country and the president. Both had to get accustomed to something that America has not seen before -- a black first family in the White House.

While Barack Obama's popularity is not soaring like it did when he was first inaugurated, a recent poll showed that the president is still by far the most admired man in the country. He faces a challenge in 2010 making sure that his party does not lose anymore seats in Congress, especially in the Senate. So far, it has been extremely difficult for him to pass legislation due to the number of conservative Democrats in that legislative body. Many think that the tide is going against him, but Obama has shown before that he fights best when behind. He did not graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School for nothing. This is one smart cookie!

We congratulate President Barack Obama for his great accomplishments as the country's first black and Pacific president, and are we are proud to choose him as our Person of the Year for 2009.