Empowered: Following her compass with conviction

A #FilipinoAmerican story as told by businesswoman and community leader, Loida Nicolas Lewis. Read her full story below:“My father had big ambitions for his children. We were to accomplish everything he couldn’t: be a lawyer, enter public office, run for office, and maybe become president. He had a movie house made and named it after me, so I'd have the name recognition to help any potential political aspirations. But destiny interfered while I was visiting in the United States. I fell in love. Reginald Lewis and I were married in seven months. We flew to the United States on my wedding day. Because I had a tourist visa but told the officials I was moving permanently, I was paroled into the United States! I learned then that immigration law is very important to any Filipino moving to the United States. I made it my goal to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—but, first, I had to become a lawyer! I already had a law degree from the University of the Philippines, so I took the bar in New York and became the first Filipino and Asian woman to pass it. But the INS denied my application three times. I filed a discrimination suit—and won! The judge decreed that I had been discriminated against because of my gender, national origin, and race, and awarded me a 3-year back pay. I finally worked at INS and, there, I met many poor people who couldn’t afford a lawyer and made sure to answer all their questions. I co-wrote “How to Get a Green Card,” now it's in the 12th edition, to help more immigrants. Meanwhile, I took the role of a supportive wife as my husband pursued his dreams as a businessman. I may have been Type A—ambitious and competitive—but he was more focused and more hardworking than I ever could be. He was a visionary with the highest ambitions; even as a child, he was intent on becoming the richest black man in America. I watched and supported him as he created the largest African American-owned company in the world. Reginald acquired the company through a leveraged buyout; the plan was to make it profitable, reduce the debt, and sell it. But he died five years after from brain cancer, and I mourned his passing deeply. After a year, I took over the company as its CEO and Chairman of the Board and eventually sold it at a profit.I shifted my focus to political advocacy. Some friends and I put up the National Federation of Filipino American Associations to empower our community. I joined the Asian American Victory Fund which supports candidates who would be good for Asian Americans. Little by little, we are making the voices of Asian Americans heard.Let’s do as much as we can to right a wrong. And I’ve dedicated my life to doing what’s right at every stage of my life. After all, we are the captains of our destinies.” About: Filipino American Disruptors is a storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI Community celebrating the stories of Filipino Americans in a range of disciplines from community activism to tech entrepreneurship. These forward-thinking individuals are trendsetters, trailblazers, and problem-solvers in their respective fields, helping to push America and the Filipino American community forward through their leadership, creativity, and innovation.NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo

Posted by AARP AAPI Community on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Empowered: Following Her Compass with Conviction

A #FilipinoAmerican story as told by businesswoman and community leader, Loida Nicolas Lewis.

“My father had big ambitions for his children. We were to accomplish everything he couldn’t: be a lawyer, enter public office, run for office, and maybe become president. He had a movie house made and named it after me, so I’d have the name recognition to help any potential political aspirations. But destiny interfered while I was visiting in the United States. I fell in love. Reginald Lewis and I were married in seven months.

We flew to the United States on my wedding day. Because I had a tourist visa but told the officials I was moving permanently, I was paroled into the United States! I learned then that immigration law is very important to any Filipino moving to the United States. I made it my goal to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—but, first, I had to become a lawyer!

I already had a law degree from the University of the Philippines, so I took the bar in New York and became the first Filipino and Asian woman to pass it. But the INS denied my application three times. I filed a discrimination suit—and won! The judge decreed that I had been discriminated against because of my gender, national origin, and race, and awarded me a 3-year back pay. I finally worked at INS and, there, I met many poor people who couldn’t afford a lawyer and made sure to answer all their questions. I co-wrote “How to Get a Green Card,” now it’s in the 12th edition, to help more immigrants.

Meanwhile, I took the role of a supportive wife as my husband pursued his dreams as a businessman. I may have been Type A—ambitious and competitive—but he was more focused and more hardworking than I ever could be. He was a visionary with the highest ambitions; even as a child, he was intent on becoming the richest black man in America. I watched and supported him as he created the largest African American-owned company in the world.

Reginald acquired the company through a leveraged buyout; the plan was to make it profitable, reduce the debt, and sell it. But he died five years after from brain cancer, and I mourned his passing deeply. After a year, I took over the company as its CEO and Chairman of the Board and eventually sold it at a profit.

I shifted my focus to political advocacy. Some friends and I put up the National Federation of Filipino American Associations to empower our community. I joined the Asian American Victory Fund which supports candidates who would be good for Asian Americans. Little by little, we are making the voices of Asian Americans heard.

Let’s do as much as we can to right a wrong. And I’ve dedicated my life to doing what’s right at every stage of my life. After all, we are the captains of our destinies.”

About:
Filipino American Disruptors is a month-long storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI Communityommunity celebrating the stories of Filipino Americans in a range of disciplines from community activism to tech entrepreneurship. These forward-thinking individuals are trendsetters, trailblazers, and problem-solvers in their respective fields, helping to push America and the Filipino American community forward through their leadership, creativity, and innovation.

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo