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When my father, Soo Bock Choi, died in March, he left a wonderful legacy to the university where he taught for more than 30 years, the community where he lived for more than 40 years and to his family: the strong desire to seek out others from different backgrounds, places and cultures, and the ability to realize our unexpected similarities. He firmly believed that we better ourselves and our way of life by getting to know what is seemingly foreign. As his daughter and a lawyer for 21 years now, I have come to understand the importance of this philosophy on both a personal and professional level. My parents each came to the United States during the Korean War, and eventually settled in West Virginia to work and raise their young children. Most people are under the impression that it must have been a difficult place for an immigrant family to live. But, actually, we found that we had much more in common with our Appalachian neighbors, and vice versa, than met the eye. In fact, West Virginia bears a surprising resemblance to Korea- the mountainous terrain, the seasons, the farming and industry (mining). Each was shaped, in more than one way, by civil war. Even the people themselves share quite a few similarities. Familial and communal ties are highly prized by Koreans and West Virginians. Both know adversity and sorrow all too well, and have a stoic outlook on life; yet they both have a playful sense of humor and a generous nature. My father, having grown up on a small farm in a rural part of Korea, appreciated these similarities, and taught others to appreciate them as well. A political science professor at Marshall University, he broadened the horizons of his many students, 15,000 in all, by having them read a wide array of political thought; by encouraging questioning and debate in a classroom of students from different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds; by telling his students to travel around the world; and by founding the university’s International Student Club in the 1960s to provide a forum for minority students and teachers. He also urged them to participate actively in our democratic process by voting regularly and also by running for elective office. My father planted the seeds for a more fully integrated, and thus better, society. Many of his students, profoundly influenced by his teachings, went on to interesting careers in government, or became teachers themselves. As for myself, I turned to the law. As a career federal prosecutor and now a supervising prosecutor, I have come to deeply appreciate the importance of my father’s efforts as I work to bring people from diverse backgrounds together in the office. In 1994, when I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, the office had relatively few minority prosecutors in a city that had a predominantly African-American population. The appointment of the first African-American as U.S. attorney paved the way for a new wave of federal prosecutors who, literally and figuratively, changed the complexion of the office and enhanced its practice. Recent rise in diversity hiring When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area five years ago, I was surprised by the relative lack of diversity in the legal profession-within the office, in the judiciary and in law enforcement. Now in a supervisory position, I have worked closely with U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan of the Northern District of California to hire and promote talented female and minority prosecutors. Simply put, we have diversified the office considerably-on all levels. About 45% of the new prosecutors hired have been women, and more than 32% of the new hires, minorities. Nearly half of the supervisors are women and minorities. Four of the five members on the senior executive management team are women. This is an unusually high percentage of female and minority lawyers on both the line and supervisory levels for any office, not just a federal prosecutor’s office. In both cities’ offices, I believe that increased diversity has enhanced the offices’ mission to pursue justice for several reasons. First, a prosecuting office is better equipped to earn the trust and confidence of the community when it reflects the community’s diversity. Victims, witnesses and jurors alike often relate better to prosecutors who share their backgrounds and understand their particular circumstances. We women and minorities have often developed a unique understanding of human nature that serves us well as prosecutors in assessing people and the crimes they may have committed or that may have been perpetrated against them. Second, more integration within a prosecuting office yields a richer and more invigorating experience for the office as a whole, and enhances the ability of one and all to serve the public. As my father taught, when people from different walks of life are exposed to each other, they begin to see commonalities rather than be daunted by differences. Third, for a profession whose most important building is engraved with the maxim “Equal Justice Under the Law,” achieving equality within prosecutorial ranks sends a significant message to the profession and the community. A prosecuting office will not be able to achieve its best unless all who work there have the opportunity to achieve their best. The seeds my father planted at Marshall University have taken root and now thrive. Most recently, several Saudi students have joined the International Student Club that he founded so many years ago. In my office, we too have planted the seeds and built a foundation for the future: By bringing in and promoting such talented women and minority prosecutors, we build a better society. Eumi Choi is the first minority woman to hold the position of first assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. Additionally, she is the chairwoman of the recently created Northern California Stock Options Backdating Task Force.

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