First Wisconsin Hmong judge lectures on compassion

Jackson Mihm, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

UW-Whitewater hosted its annual Southeast Asian heritage lecture in room 2101 of Hyland Hall on Dec. 5.

The talk covered several topics, but a recurring theme was overcoming adversity and using these experiences to shape an understanding, compassionate worldview.

The speaker at this year’s lecture was Kashoua “Kristy” Yang. Yang serves as the Branch 47 judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Yang won her seat in 2017 after defeating incumbent Scott Wales. Yang became the first-ever female Hmong judge in the history of Wisconsin and the whole United States, and the second Hmong judge ever to serve in American history.

Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Yang has had a long and inspiring journey that has led her to where she is today. After immigrating to the states at a young age, with parents that didn’t speak or understand much English, she worked against the odds to obtain her position. Her message resonates with many, and that’s backed up by her recent political victory.

“Seeing local political figures around campus is exciting, being able to see into the life of someone that is a part of local government and her presence is having an effect on everyday life in the area,” said Josie Cruz, a senior at UW-Whitewater who was in attendance at the lecture.

Yang’s story is meant to inspire all people, that no matter where you start, or what you think is possible, hard work and dedication can make up for any disadvantage.

Yang wrapped up her lecture with a question and answer portion, and let college students inquire as to what she wanted to accomplish or where her future was going to take her.

“I’m turning 40 and I have kids and I love my job, it’s a great job, but I know consciously or sub-consciously I’m getting comfortable and I shouldn’t be comfortable. I can feel the comfort creeping in, but I simply know the change is not enough for where I want to be,” Yang said, acknowledging the amount of work ahead of her.