Where are you from, and why there?
I am from Littleton, Colorado, where I attended Columbine High School, later graduating from Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. My early years were defined by adventuring on the Front Range and in the Colorado mountains. I also started my legal career there before a long period of work overseas.
My mom is originally from China, having fled Mao in 1949 to Taiwan, and then emigrating to Oklahoma for graduate school. Her journey as an immigrant has served as a source of inspiration for me. I felt fortunate to be able to revisit her country of birth only a few years ago with her. Of course, so much has changed since she left.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
Nominally, I work in transitional justice and international criminal law, fighting impunity for atrocity crimes. I have served in the Trial Chambers of two international(ized) courts and am now the Legal Director at a Syrian NGO working to support universal jurisdiction prosecutions. Practically, I work hand-in-hand with those impacted by serious crimes in pursuit of justice. Early in my work overseas, I learned the value of local knowledge and cultural empathy. In my subsequent work on the conflicts in Rwanda, Cambodia and now Syria, I have done my utmost to respect and give prominence to local perspectives while sharing technical expertise. Building meaningful connections along the way has sustained me.
How did you get involved?
My first meaningful time overseas came as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa. That experience influenced all of my life decisions thereafter.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
The general antipathy towards international institutions is corrosive. The UN is a frequent target of scorn for failing to act, but it is only as strong as its member states. The so-called great powers require a course correction or we risk another big war. An aversion to cooperation is not a sign of strength. Unilateralism is the lazy man’s approach.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
Trust and compassion. Nothing is possible without first laying a strong foundation based upon mutual respect. Any successes that I have had were made possible by genuine regard for these principles.
What drives you?
Faith that humans are by nature good and well-intentioned (though we are hobbled by our laziness and stupidity). I believe that there are solutions to the world’s great problems even if they are not always self-evident. And we will make mistakes along the way. Forgiveness is key.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
Principles matter. Those without power deserve strong advocates.