Chau will serve as mayor for at least two years. His win is historic not only because of his identity as the first Cambodian American mayor but for his journey as a refugee.
During his victory speech, he recalled old memories of when he first came to America after surviving the Khmer Rouge’s brutal rule.
“God bless America, right? I was a refugee, now I’m the mayor of a major city in Massachusetts,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
A historic day in the City of Lowell as the 2022-2023 City Council took the oath of office and @SokharyChau was elected Mayor by his colleagues. The newly elected Council marks the first to serve under Lowell’s new representative election system. pic.twitter.com/8Ykd6VwCHZ
— City of Lowell (@CityofLowellMA) January 3, 2022
He also acknowledged other immigrants and their sacrifices.
“I don’t know if that could happen anywhere else in the world. I’m still trying to absorb it. As a proud Cambodian American, I am standing on the shoulders of many immigrants who came before me to build this city,” Chau added.
Chau fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia with his mother and six siblings in 1979. His family faced many obstacles including traveling the jungles of Thailand while attempting to reach refugee camps.
He shared that his mother who died last year managed to keep her seven children alive for four years through “landmines, jungles, hunger, sickness and uncertainty” in order to get them safely to the U.S.
“When I was nine years old, my family initially settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the help of the Catholic Church. The extraordinary experience offered by the Church had promoted us to convert to Christianity,” he told the AP.
During his speech, he not only recalled his family’s journey but memories of his father, who he said was a captain in the Cambodian army and executed by communists during the civil war.
Sokhary Chau is sworn in as the first Cambodian American mayor in the United States.
The new Lowell, MA, mayor is a refugee who survived brutal Communist Khmer Rouge rule. pic.twitter.com/Nf3yBG8Bem
— The Recount (@therecount) January 4, 2022
Emotional and proud Chau noted the significance of his election to the wider Cambodian diaspora and called others to step up in their communities.
“We can no longer be just victims,” he said in his closing his inaugural remarks. “It is our time now to be leaders and to succeed.”
Loving all these “firsts” and cannot wait to see more! Comment below with a “first” you hope to see happen this new year!