May 31, 2023

Remembering to Have Roots and Wings with Shannon Goff Kukulka

Holland & Knight Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Spotlight Series

Holland & Knight's Diversity Council and Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Affinity Group is proud to celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and pay tribute to the generations of Asians and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history and continue to play a role in its future success. Here at H&K, we take time to reflect on how we could better support our API colleagues by sitting down with attorneys and staff to have important conversations about racial justice and allyship. This year, we are repurposing Waller's APAHM video series to share the stories of those who have recently joined us. We hope that the stories conveyed in these videos help advance dialogue around API Heritage Month as well as lead to further discussions of how we can be better allies to our API friends, family and colleagues.

In this episode, attorney Shannon Goff Kukulka spoke about her experience being interracial and the challenges she had to face along the way. She also highlighted her strong support system and shared the story of her inspiring grandmother, who always reminded her of what she could accomplish. Ms. Kukulka shared advice for young professionals to always dream big and be bold.  

More Videos in this Series

Episode 1: A Series Introduction from Asian/Pacific Islander Affinity Group Chair Stacey Wang

Episode 2: Witnessing API Discrimination: A Shared Experience

Episode 3: Kristin Asai Shares Her Family History in the U.S. Japanese Internment Camps

Episode 4: Highlighting API Contributions to the U.S. Military

Episode 5: A Brief History of Discrimination Against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans

Episode 6: Becoming an Ally with Jennifer A. Mansfield

Episode 7: Perspectives from a Second Generation Samoan American

Episode 8: Reflecting on the Importance of Professional Mentors

Episode 9: Explaining the Model Minority Myth

Episode 10: Holly Camisa Shares her Experience with being Multiracial

Episode 11: Celebrating the Everyday Asian Lives with Vinh Duong and Quynh-Anh Kibler

Episode 12: Remembering to Have Roots and Wings with Shannon Goff Kukulka (You are currently viewing Episode 12)

Shannon Goff Kukulka: My name is Shannon Goff Kukulka. I am a partner in the Tax and ERISA Practice group. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was a small child. I didn't have lawyers in my family, but I think I was encouraged in that because it's an honorable profession, a path to success and maybe because I talk a lot. I think, you know, intersectionality can present some unique challenges. When you are of diverse heritage, but let's say you're not easily categorized or compartmentalized, it can be somewhat marginalizing or disorienting. When you're a child, I think that is demonstrated by trying to fit in into the different groups that you might be a member of or try to get member of, while still retaining who it is that you are and you know yourself to be. Then as an adult and professional, it becomes trying to make space for yourself. To chart a path without a map. I think, you know, it's a unique set of circumstances. I certainly recognize certain privileges that I have in certain challenges that are that are still there. I mean, you know, the expression, if you see it, you can be it. In my case, it was more like "If you tell someone they can be anything for a while, they believe it." So I've been supported and championed in my life and I aim to do that for others too. I have a really strong family. A lot of people before me who have led by example. My mother and father, of course, were always proponents of education and the sky's the limit. My Japanese grandmother is really a big inspiration for me because she was one of the. Most intelligent, hardest working people that I've ever met, yet she didn't have the same opportunities in life that I have had and then others have had. So it's important to me, you know, my success feels as though it's sort of a fulfillment of the dreams of my grandmother and my family, and that's important to me. It's sort of my North star. She is a real inspiration. I think it was a quiet confidence that she had because she was one of the few Japanese people in our small town. We were some of the few Asian people in our small town, and she led with such grace and was such a hard worker and so dedicated that I think that kind of quiet resolve goes uncelebrated sometimes, but certainly creates opportunities for those behind her to have more chances to succeed and more recognition. She worked really hard. She was really proud of her family. So she was a big inspiration for me. Still is. To me this month is an intentional celebration of Asian Americans who came before us and carved a path that wasn't there before to create more and better opportunities for success. And at the same time it's championing those who are still fighting that good fight, who are still working toward equal rights and opportunities for everyone. It's a chance to give voice to that reverence and respect that we have for those champions every day. I would say to young professionals to remember to have both roots and wings. By roots, I mean remember where you came from and who you are. Hold on to that heritage, it's important. But also wings in the sense that you should aim big. You should say what you want. Go after what you want. No one cares as much as you do about your own career, and so you may as well be bold.

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