Hines Ward among 2012 NAAAP 100 honorees
This past weekend, the National Association of Asian American Professionals announced the 2012 honorees of the NAAAP 100 award. Winners were announced during NAAAP’s 30th Anniversary / National Convention in New York City’s Hilton Hotel.
Winners included Doris Ching, Vivienne Poy, Ike Song, Hines Ward, and Richard Lui. The following article appeared originally in ALIST Magazine’s Autumn 2012 issue. Check back tomorrow for features on the other winners.
Hines Ward is a Commissioner for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (appointed to post by President Barack Obama in 2010), a humanitarian, and a former professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2012).
During his 14-year stint as wide receiver for the Steelers, Ward notably achieved: two Super Bowl championships; Super Bowl XL MVP; 4 Pro Bowl selections; all-time team leadership in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns; and Steelers’ 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Ward’s leadership on the field carries over to his humanitarian efforts off the field. In April 2006, 2 months after being named Super Bowl MVP, Ward returned to Seoul, his birthplace, for the first time in thirty years. His Korean mother and African American father had brought him to the U.S. with them when he was one year old. Meeting in person with the children who endure discrimination in Korea due to their biracial identity, Ward has since pledged $1 million to help establish the Hines Ward Helping Hands Korea Foundation whose mission is to foster social and political reforms and help improve the lives of these children.
The Foundation has since extended its work to serving underprivileged and inner city youths in the U.S., in particular through literacy programs in Pittsburgh (where he lived and worked as a professional) and in Atlanta (where he grew up with his Korean mother, who raised him on her own, with limited English skills, and while holding down three jobs.)
As a youth, Ward struggled with his mixed-race identity but decided to channel all the negative energy into something he was good at—sports. At Forest Park High School in Georgia, Ward demonstrated skill in both baseball and football, but opted to pursue football at the college level. Ward started out playing various positions for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, including quarterback, tailback and receiver. He became full-time receiver his junior year and finished his senior year with All-SEC honors and a record as Georgia’s second highest all-time receiver.
Ward has become an ambassador of hope for biracial children in Korea. His message to them: “If the country can accept me for who I am and accept me for being Korean, I’m pretty sure that this country can change and accept you for who you are.” Through his strong ties with the Steelers and his work with WHAAPI and the Helping Hands Foundation, Ward is delivering the same message to suffering children all over.