‘Nailing It For America’ Co-Founder Speaks At White House Business Event Highlighting Little Saigon’s Response To COVID-19
Tam Nguyen speaks about Vietnamese-American community’s response to Gov. Newsom by vowing to work with state officials to enhance safety, and volunteer effort to donate nearly 1 million personal protective equipment to front-line workers, 32,000 restaurant meals to Americans in need
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Tam Nguyen, president of Advance of Beauty College and co-founder of the all-volunteer group of Nailing It For America, spoke about the around-the-clock mobilizing work to respond to Gov. Gavin Newsom and to protect workers and other community members during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the annual event was reformatted to be a virtual event that is part of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.
In his remarks online and via telephone conference at noon California time today (Thursday, May 14), thousands of business leaders heard about Nailing It For America’s response to California governor’s remarks that the first case of community spread of COVID-19 was in a nail salon.
“We’re now working on the legislative side to respond to Governor Newsom’s remarks just last week,” Tam said on the high-profile event attended by high-ranking officials from President Donald Trump’s Administration, including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We conducted a news conference in front of Advance Beauty College with more than 25 different news outlets covering the breaking news story. We surprised most people who expected a fight from us. Instead, the public got a measured and responsible approach from Nailing It For America in expressing our desire to work with the governor and other government officials to do everything possible to further safeguard safety for nail spa owners, workers, clients and all Californians in a new campaign called, “Nailing It For Safety for All Californians.”
In response to the theme of collaboration, Tam talked about his partnership with the volunteer organization’s other co-founders – Christie Ha, Ha Duong, Johnny Ngo and Ted Nguyen – in delivering nearly 1 million personal protective equipment worth approximately $30 million and providing 32,000 restaurant meals to front-line workers battling COVID-19.
Tam even secured a pledge from another keynote speaker during the prestigious business event. Duke Pham of Pho’nomenal Bowls in Seattle, Wash., made a promise to be part of Nailing It For America by donating an additional 1,975 restaurant meals across 10 states. Like Tam, Duke also came to the U.S. in 1975 after the war in Vietnam.
Please see the full copy of Tam Nguyen’s remarks to White House officials and business leaders from across the United States:
“Heart and Soul”
Remarks By Tam Nguyen
During A White House Business Event May 14, 2020
Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
To all my fellow Americans watching this, along with our sisters and brothers who are immigrants or refugees, I want to wish you all a happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!
The Vietnamese experience in America hasn’t been as historically long as others, but we’re equally as relevant, vibrant, dynamic and even powerful. Because of the war in Vietnam, both countries have been forever bonded through a shared struggle … a shared loss … and in many cases, shared successes.
For Vietnamese Americans, we started arriving in the United States after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. It’s a date etched into the hearts and consciousness of all Americans of Vietnamese decent. We now number more than 2.2 million in the United States, and there are 300,000 Vietnamese Americans where I live in the heart of Orange County, California called “Little Saigon.”
Most people in this community associate me with Advance Beauty College. We’ve had more than 40,000 graduates go through the innovative program in our 33-year history with training that includes educators who speak English, Farsi, Spanish and Vietnamese. I’m proud to say that the vast majority of our graduates are proudly employed in the beauty-care industry with many becoming businesses owners themselves.
Despite my parents’ adamant opposition, I followed his heart and returned to operate my family’s beauty school. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from UC Irvine, I completed medical school in 2000, fulfilling my family’s dream for their first-born to become a doctor. Instead, I shocked them. I made the gut-wrenching personal decision to do what my heart always tugged at me to do – to continue the legacy of the family business but bring it into the modern era and train legions upon legions more to help transform the overall beauty industry.
I followed in my younger sister’s example and enrolled at Cal State Fullerton, where Linh earned her business degree. Shortly after earning an MBA, I joined forces with Linh. With our business degrees and strategic drive, we joined forces and rebranded our family’s proud mom-and-pop “Tam’s Beauty School” to become “Advance Beauty College.”
Ranking among the largest beauty school in Southern California, Advance Beauty College’s two campuses were teaming with students being trained as manicurists, estheticians, hair stylists and massage therapists. But then the coronavirus or the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and California became the first in the nation to issue the necessary statewide stay-at-home order.
After experiencing the devastating impacts on the nail-care industry, I trusted my heart again. I joined five other professionals in Orange County – Christie Nguyen, Ha Duong, Johnny Ngo and Ted Nguyen – and launched “Nailing It For Health Care Workers” at the end of March and by mid-April, we had collected more than 120,000 medical-grade face masks, 300,000 gloves and tens of thousands of other personal protective equipment and delivered them to 150 locations throughout Orange County. The initiative quickly expanded nationwide with its new name, “Nailing It For America.”
Together, through pure grit and determination, we mobilized the industry and so many others to donate more than 1.2 million medical-grade masks, gloves and other PPEs to front-line workers at hospitals in nearly every state. We estimate the current market value of those mostly American-made PPEs is approximately $30 million.
The all-volunteer organization also has delivered 32,000 restaurant meals to healthcare workers and other front-line worker fighting COVID-19. In just three weeks, the group has raised more than $150,000 for front-line workers combatting COVID-19. Nailing It For America’s valuable and meaningful work has received extensive news coverage from regional, national and international news media. It’s been whirlwind of daily news media coverage. And we’re so thankful to also have partners Love 2 Yeu and the Orange County United Way
We’re now working on the legislative side to respond to Governor Newsom’s remarks just last week that the first community spread case of COVID-19 was at a nail salon. By the next morning, we conducted a news conference in front of Advance Beauty College with more than 25 different news outlets covering the breaking news story. We surprised most people who expected a fight from us. Instead, the public got a measured and responsible approach from Nailing It For America in expressing our desire to work with the governor and other government officials to do everything possible to further safeguard safety for nail spa owners, workers, clients and all Californians in a new campaign called, “Nailing It For Safety for All Californians.”
I was just 1 when my parents fled as refugees after the Fall of Saigon. We were among a relatively small group of 125,000 refugees who arrived in America immediately after the Vietnam War. We’ve learned how to mobilize as a community thanks in large part through the wide path cleared by Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Filipino Americans, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Latinos and others ahead of us.
I am grateful for your sacrifice and courage in helping to advance Liberty and Justice for all in this great land of ours. To conclude, I especially want to thank my parents for their sacrifice and risking it all to give me and my sister, Linh, a better life in America.
Our names in Vietnamese: Tam means HEART.
Linh means SOUL.
It’s with our collective “hearts and souls” that we – together – will combat COVID-19 and emerge stronger as a community and as a nation. Thank you!