Top 25 Speakers for AAPI Heritage Month

  • By Aaron Peterson
  •  May 22, 2024

AAPI Heritage Month celebrates Asian-American and Pacific Islanders past and present. It’s a celebration of the impact, both culturally and historically, people have had on the U.S. If you haven’t booked an AAPI Heritage speaker, there’s time.

Frank Horton, a representative from New York, and Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye introduced bills to establish Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week in 1977. Neither bill passed, but Horton didn’t give up. He introduced another bill a year later and President Jimmy Carter signed it into law. It expanded to a year in 1992 under President George H. W. Bush.

The impact of AAPI people is tremendous, and every year, more achievements make the news. In 1957, Miyoshi Umeki became the first Asian American to win “Best Supporting Actress” for “Sayonara. Awkwafina became the first Asian American to win a Golden Globe for “Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy” for “The Farewell” in 2020.

In 1985, Ellison Onizuka became the first Asian American in space aboard the Discovery. Kamala Harris became the first Asian American vice president in U.S. history in 2021. That same year, the first Marvel Asian superhero debuted. Last year, a talented Pacific Islander won “American Idol.”

Here are our top AAPI speakers for AAPI Heritage Month. We’ve provided a quick bio to summarize their achievements.

1. Tua Tagovailoa

Hawaiian Tua was Miami’s fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His football career flourished as lead passing yards in 2023 and made it to the Pro Bowl. He also founded the Tua Foundation, a nonprofit that offers support to communities for youth health and wellness and other important causes.

2. Chloe Kim

Chloe’s parents left South Korea to move to California where she embraced snowboarding at the age of four. She joined the U.S. Snowboarding Team in 2013 and won two Gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. It was in those Olympics that Chloe became the youngest woman to win Gold in the halfpipe. In the 2022 Olympics, she won Gold again, becoming the first female snowboarder to win back-to-back Gold.

3. Amanda Nguyen

Amanda was one of Time’s 2022 picks for “Women of the Year.” Before that honor, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Her work drafting the “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act,” which passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress. She’s the founder and CEO of Rise, a non-profit that protects the rights of sexual assault and rape survivors. Amanda also championed the anti-Asian hate movement.

4. Jeffrey Ma

Jeffrey was part of the MIT Blackjack Team that established the foolproof method for counting cards to ensure a win. His method inspired the book “Bringing Down the House,” his own book “The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business,” and the movie “21” starring Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey.

5. Bernice Chao

As the Head of Integrated Creative at Zambezi, Bernice has helped on marketing campaigns for Google, HBO, Shopify, and other major companies. She’s also the co-founder of Asians in Advertising and worked with “Adweek” on the “Asian Talent Showcase.” Bernice is a TEDx Culver City chapter president and popular SXSW speaker.

6. Pablo Torre

Pablo is a Harvard graduate with a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His career in journalism started at “Sports Illustrated,” and led to him becoming a regular on ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and “Highly Questionable.” He’s also the host of “ESPN Daily” podcast. Pablo won a Sports Emmy for his reporting on NFL player protests. He’s also very open about his experiences with anxiety and depression and his Asian heritage’s role in his mental health.

7. Julie Chen

Julie is a former CBS “The Early Show” and “The Talk” co-host and moderator, and current “Big Brother” host. She’s also the author of the children’s book “When I Grow Up.” Her mother grew up in Burma and her dad fled Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Her heritage led to one news director telling her she’d never become a news anchor due to her “Asian eyes,” and an agent told her to get plastic surgery to fix it.

8. Lori Nishiura Mackenzie

Lori is the co-founder of Stanford VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab and lead strategist for the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s DEI policies. Her goal has been to make Stanford’s classroom experience more inclusive of everyone. She’s one of BBC’s 2017 honorees for “100 Women” and an advisor to the Women’s Startup Lab.

9. Scout Bassett

At a young age, Scout Bassett lost her leg to a chemical fire in Nanjing China, and was found abandoned on the side of a road. She grew up in a government orphanage where she made a prosthetic leg from leather belts and masking tape and started to walk. A Michigan couple adopted her in 1994, and she became the only Asian girl in an all-white school. After receiving a prosthetic running leg when she was 14, she started training and worked hard to make it to the U.S. Paralympic team. She’s since won two Bronze and a Gold.

10. Jia Jiang

Jia grew up in China and became a U.S. immigrant at the age of 16. He gained a Bachelor of Computer Science at Brigham Young and then an MBA from Duke University. Jia is the owner of Rejection Therapy, an organization dedicated to helping people overcome their fear of rejection. He’s the author of “Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection.”

11. Marita Cheng

She’s the youngest Member of the Order of Australia and Forbes named her a “World’s Top 50 Women” in 2018. Marita is the founder and CEO of Aubot, a telepresence robot to help kids with cancer attend school, people with disabilities work, and isolated older adults enjoy socialization.

12. Carol Jue

Carol is the first Chinese-American head basketball coach in the NCAA. She’s won the “SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year” award for three years running. She’s also led Chapman University to nine NCAA Division III playoffs, five All-West Region selections, and an SCIAC Tournament title.

13. Bea Kim

Bea is the co-founder of Awaken, a provider of DEI programs that have helped parents, business professionals, and businesses like Apple, Google, LinkedIn, and Salesforce. She’s also a group coach for the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

14. Keston Hiura

Keston was a second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers until 2024 when he signed with the Detroit Tigers. He was born to a Japanese father and a Chinese mother and enjoys talking about his Asian heritage.

15. Dr. Kevin Fong

Kevin is part of the U.K.’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service and was part of the NHS’s COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Resilience & Response team. He’s a physician on the frontlines who specializes in extreme pressure, teamwork, and risk management.

16. Scott Amyx

He’s the managing partner at Astor Perkins, a deep tech and sustainability venture capital. Scott is an SXSW Pitch Judge and popular TEDx speaker. One of his popular speaking topics is about “How Doing the Things Most Uncomfortable Leads to Success.” Many of his insights come from his youth where he grew up near the DMZ border in South Korea.

17. Tan Le

Tan is a Vietnamese refugee who came to Australia at the age of four. She spent time in a refugee camp and worked her way up to “Young Australian of the Year,” which led to her portrait being hung in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Ask her about her popular TEDx Talk “My Immigration Story.”

18. Christina Qi

If you deal with Imposter Syndrome, you already have one thing in common with Christina. She’s the CEO of Databento, a market data platform providing on-demand services. She’s also the founder of the former Domeyard LP, high-frequency trading hedge fund. All of this started from her dorm room where she took $1,000 and became one of the top women in finance. Not bad for an immigrant who quickly learned that finance, especially Wall Street finance, is a male-dominated career.

19. Jenn Lim

“Delivering Happiness” is Jenn Lim’s popular TEDx talk that has more than 7,100 views. It’s also her company. She’s the CEO of Delivering Happiness, a company she founded with Tony Hseih, the late CEO of Zappos. She uses her experiences in culture and strategy to come up with a how-to method for living more meaningful lives.

20. Lorraine K. Lee

Lorraine is an instructor for both Stanford Continuing Studies and LinkedIn Learning. She was the founding editor at LinkedIn, Prezi, and SlideShare. She’s also been a moderator at the LinkedIn Asian Alliance ERG Event.

21. Charlene Li

Charlene is the author of “The Disruption Mindset” and senior fellow at Altimeter, a disruptive analyst firm. She’s been named one of Inc.’s “Top 50 Leadership Innovators” and is on the board of YPO.

22. Joon Lee

Joon is one of the hosts of “Baseball Tonight Live” on ESPN and often appears on “Around the Horn.” He was born in Seoul, South Korea, but his parents immigrated to the U.S. when he was an infant. His father taught accounting at Endicott College while his mom paused her teaching career to help the family adjust to their new lives in America while keeping Korean culture alive.

23. Milton Chen

Dr. Milton Chen is the senior fellow and executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation. He received the NHK-Japan President’s Award and his book “Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools” was named one of the year’s best education books by the American School Board Journal.

24. Taylor Rapp

Taylor’s father is Canadian and his mother is Chinese. He grew up bullied and ignored because of his mixed heritage. Despite the lack of support from some school coaches, he strived to become the best and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 where he won the Super Bowl.

25. Zing Tsjeng

Zing is a journalist and executive director for Vice UK. She wrote a four-book series “Forgotten Women” about inspiring women whom history has marginalized. She’s also a noted speaker at events like the Isle of Wight Literary Festival, SXSW, and Women of the World Festival.

All of our AAPI Heritage Month speakers are ideal choices for keynotes, commencements, and corporate gatherings. Reach them through Engage’s platform to learn more.