It’s Time to Speak Up

Many of friends won’t believe this, but I was one of the shyest kids growing up. Right up until 8th grade, I feared talking to people who were even a grade above me and I only performed in my school musicals because I had to (though I also did enjoy singing, acting, & dancing just…not in front of an audience). Somewhere in that scary experience of being on stage, I learned what stage presence was and how to deliver a speech. Who knew when I would use those skills?

Well when I finally got to high school, I was the only kid from my school who went there. I learned quickly that I would either sink or swim in overcoming my shyness, and making friends was critical to surviving high school. So began my journey from being one of the quietest people to most talkative.

Then fast forward to when I started my first job out of college at SunPower, where I was the most junior person on my team. Everyone else had years of experience or held a post-grad degree from an elite school. How was I, a recent college graduate, going to add value to the conversation about developing a 500+MW solar project? Well, with the help of many an encouraging mentor, I started to find my voice.

My voice did not come so much from experience, so much as it was new perspective. It was the constant work and practice of speaking up in meetings that eventually led me to build confidence behind my contributions. Every time I spoke up, I became more confident not only in what I was sharing, but myself.

Then in 2017, I was asked to speak at the All Hands at SunPower to talk about my recent trip to Cambodia, where I had volunteered and installed a solar plus storage system at a school. I had 10 golden minutes to say whatever I wanted to say.

To many people, speaking in front of 5,000+ people is horrifying. To me, I saw this as an opportunity.

An opportunity to share.
An opportunity to engage.
An opportunity to make people care.

I worked on that presentation for 3 weeks leading up to it. I practiced my talk until I had it so memorized that there was not a single “um” or “uh” in my delivery. If I had one chance, it had to be perfect.

And you know what…it paid off! All that thought and prep was worth it and more and the presentation became a major turning point in my career. It helped me build credibility, it opened many a door to speak at events, and it showed me that I actually loved public speaking (crazy, I know!).

Over the past few years, I’ve spoken about sustainability, solar project development, mind mapping, and mentoring — all subjects that fall under the category of things Cynthia loves and cares about for our future.

Well last Saturday, I added another topic to that list — The rise in anti-Asian racism and the need for community building. A less cheery topic, but a critically important one given our current situation.

Why did I speak? Because I wanted to share my story, the history of anti-Asian racism, hope, and concrete actions to make this situation better.

Now I know public speaking is not for everyone, but it is time to share our AAPI stories. It’s time to share our lived experiences of what it meant to grow up not quite belonging here or “where we are from.”

To my Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, now is the time to share your story. It has been time to share your story for a long time.

Now is not the time to be quiet.
Now is not the time to be shy.

Now is the time to speak up.
Now is the time to share your experience with racism.
Now is also the time to listen with an open-mind as we hear from other marginalized communities and their experiences of racism.

Speaking up doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a stage in front of a big audience and speaking. It can also be writing about your stories or talking to your friends about your experience. It can be showing up to your local rally and joining in on that chant.

Regardless of how you do it, stand up and speak up because we can no longer be the quiet ones in the room.

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Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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Cynthia Leung

Cynthia Leung

Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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