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Boston City Councilman Sam Yoon is currently running for mayor. A Democrat who was born in Seoul, moved to the U.S. at 10 months old, and became a citizen at 10 years old, Sam is the first Asian-American to hold elected office in Boston. Bear in mind that Boston is one of America’s oldest cities, almost 379 years old. To be the first Asian-American elected official in the city’s storied 379 year-history is nothing short of amazian.
We sat down recently for a Q & A with Sam about his campaign. We not only learned of his stellar qualifications–Princeton undergrad, Harvard grad, community organizing–we also discovered something completely unexpected about the 39 year-old politician. As they’d say in Boston, Sam is wicked funny.
Over email, we discussed some of DISGRASIAN’s favorite topics: Hardass Asian Parents, math, advanced degrees, hot dogs, and, of course, the Boston Red Sox.
Why did you decide to get into politics?
Because it was the one career choice that would completely befuddle my parents.
When you decided to pursue a career in politics, did your Asian parents try to convince you to go to law school instead? Were they worried you wouldn’t make enough money as a public servant?
After my parents paid for a very expensive college education at Princeton, I became a teacher. After my brother graduated from Yale, he pursued ministry. We were going into the two lowest-paid professions. My parents got used to it.
You taught math in New Jersey public schools after graduating Princeton. Are you good at math? Are you good at math because you’re Asian?
All of the above. I’m a proud Asian math geek.
How many musical instruments were you forced to play as a child?
Two: piano, then the flute. My immigrant parents didn’t know how much cooler it would have been had they chosen the saxophone. Or trumpet.
We understand your wife Tina has a doctorate in biology from MIT. Do you ever call her Dr. Yoon?
Because she got her graduate degree from MIT and mine’s only from Harvard, of course she makes me call her Dr. Yoon. Truthfully, sometimes we get wedding invitations addressed to “Mr. and Dr. Yoon.” Which isn’t humiliating at all. Really.
When people say, “An Asian-American mayor of Boston? Really? I never really pictured that,” what do you say?
I don’t blame you. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mayors_of_Boston
But then try scrolling down this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_presidents
What issues will you focus on as mayor of Boston?
Check out my website samyoon.com and while you’re there please donate $500.
The Bruins went to the Conference Semis this year. The Celts won the NBA Finals in 2008. The Sox won the World Series in 2007 and 2004. And the Pats have won three Super Bowls this decade. What’s in the water in Boston these days that’s making its sports franchises so great?
Steroids, obviously. I’m looking into whether or not this is legal.
If you could play any position on the Red Sox team, what would it be?
Pitcher, because I’m sure any Korean could be at least as good as the three Japanese pitchers we have already. Not that there’s any rivalry between Koreans and Japanese or anything.
If you were a Red Sox player, what would be your at-bat song?
“Mr. Roboto” by Styx.
How fast is your fastball?
Faster than Dice-K’s these days. [Ouch! But true. Sigh.--Ed.]
What’s your favorite food at Fenway?
Truth be told, I’m a huge hot dog fan; the Monster Dogs are good.
Hypothetical scenario: You have the choice of saving either a Yankee player or your political opponent from a burning house. What do you do?
Save my political opponent, because I want to beat him.