WASHINGTON -- Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has had plenty of speaking engagements in his time, but he said his appearance Tuesday before a packed auditorium in the U.S. Capitol was the toughest.
Ward said he was nervous and humbled in brief remarks after being sworn in as a member of President Barack Obama's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, to a Korean mother and African-American father, Ward said he endured taunts as a child and was often resentful of his mixed heritage. But he credited his mother because she "instilled in me a great attitude and appreciation for who I am."
The commission advises Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on ways to improve quality of life for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The principal goal of the group, said chairwoman Daphne Kwok, is to "be the eyes and ears of the community, feeding information up to the government and translating it back down from the government to the community."
Kwok said the five primary areas the commission will focus on are sustainable communities, educational opportunities, economic growth, healthy communities and civil rights.
Among the 16 members of the commission inducted Tuesday, Ward is the only professional athlete. Other advisers include businesspeople, academics and community activists.
In Ward's case, a conflicted adolescence when he was called "Bruce Leroy and Jackie Chan" turned into an adulthood dedicated to supporting children with similar backgrounds. The Hines Ward Helping Hands Korea Foundation works with biracial children in South Korea.
Ward said he felt a kinship with his fellow honorees and the crowd, which included several Asian-American members of Congress. In particular, he said, he hoped the commission could address the problem of bullying in high schools that targets Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
He made a quick trip to D.C. for the ceremony, telling the crowd that head coach Mike Tomlin needed him back in Pittsburgh as he left the reception early.
For Ward, the appointment was another honor to add to the pile -- which includes a Super Bowl MVP trophy -- and a sign of his personal journey.
"For something that I resented for so many years, and now to come full circle around to be a true advocate and spokesman for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it's a wonderful thing," he said.
Daniel Malloy: email@example.com or 202-445-9980. First Published September 22, 2010 4:00 AM