Sheng Thao, the Mayor of Oakland and the First Hmong American Mayor in a Major U.S. City, Shares Her Journey.

In a groundbreaking event this year, history was etched as Mayor Sheng Thao assumed office in Oakland, California, making her the first Hmong American to hold such a prominent position in a major U.S. city.

The magnitude of her swearing-in ceremony surpassed any expectations she had ever harbored.

“I was joined by Hmong individuals who flocked from all corners of the nation,” shared Thao. “It was a collective journey that I embarked upon with the entire Hmong community.”

Thao’s parents sought refuge from Laos back in 1975.

“Refugees were my parents. I grew up amidst hardship and poverty, feeling abandoned by the government,” she expressed.

Before her graduation from UC Berkeley, Thao managed to escape an abusive relationship, living in her car alongside her young son. She frequently found herself queuing up for sustenance.

“Starving students is a term often heard, but how often do we witness meaningful action?” she pondered.

Her answer was to vie for a seat on the city council.

“Empathy is an indispensable element in this line of work,” she asserted to CBS News. “Without it, the tasks at hand cannot be fulfilled. And those devoid of empathy shouldn’t be undertaking such responsibilities.”

Now 37 years old, Thao spearheads the efforts to rectify the challenges that beset her sprawling and distressed city. Her purpose revolves around leaving a better future for the next generation, particularly her son, Ben.

At the age of 16, Ben graced his mother’s inauguration by playing the cello.

Thao firmly believes that her story’s takeaway lies in the power of hope — that it is indeed everything.

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