Citizen of the Year Pham honored at reception

By Brandon Gustafson | Aug 01, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Nhi Pham receives her Citizen of the Year plaque from 2011 winner Elizabeth Erickson. Erickson nominated Pham, and spoke passionately about Pham’s volunteer work and past as an immigrant from Vietnam.

In front of a full house of family, friends, city officials, and past award winners, Dr. Nhi Pham officially took her place as the 2018 Mukilteo Citizen of the Year at an award presentation and reception in her honor.

Harbour Pointe Senior Living and the Kiwanis Club of Mukilteo hosted the ceremony, which took place on Saturday, July 28.

2017 Citizen of the Year Pam Taylor emceed the event.

“Thank you to the Mukilteo Kiwanis Club who sponsored this award, and thank you to Harbour Pointe Senior Living who was kind enough to host, along with the Mukilteo Kiwanis Club, this fabulous reception, and again, thank you all for coming,” she said.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson was in attendance, and thanked past winners and volunteers for their attendance.

“It’s exciting to be in the same room with lots of former Citizens of the Year, and a lot of other volunteers who help make our community a better place to live,” Gregerson said.

Elizabeth Erickson, the 2011 Citizen of the Year, nominated Pham for the award and spoke about the importance of volunteers.

“Any fine community is really made up of a lot of volunteers, and 99 percent of them are never, ever acknowledged,” Erickson said. “They may put in a day, they may put in months toward a festival or any number of things that make up a vibrant community.

“This year, in the nomination process, one person just shone in my mind.”

That person, she said, was Pham, who spends a great amount of her time volunteering both locally and internationally, and came to America from Vietnam as a small child in the 1970s.

“Nhi Pham, from the moment her feet touched the shore, her family dedicated themselves to making the world a better place, not only in local communities, but wherever they are,” Erickson said. “We were lucky enough to have Nhi Pham settle down and make her dental practice here. We’re the beneficiaries of a family who immigrated here in one of the most tumultuous times of the United States’ history.”

Erickson said Pham being an immigrant and winning this award is fitting, as immigration is currently a hot-button issue in the United States.

“Identifying this year, in a very tumultuous time in our nation, when immigrants are being downplayed and denigrated, Nhi represents all that is good about our nation,” Erickson said. “We are a nation of immigrants, and she is one of many fine people who have made this world better by blending themselves into the United States of America.”

Erickson presented Pham with her plaque, and Pham, dressed in a traditional Vietnamese red dress, took to the podium to give her acceptance speech.

“The last time I was wearing a red, traditional Vietnamese dress, called an áo dài, and surrounded by family and friends, was at my tea ceremony, and that was the morning of my wedding,” Pham said.

Pham said her husband, Chris, gave a short speech at the ceremony, and she was expecting him to proclaim his love for her.

“He tells everyone, ‘When I was a boy, I wanted to find a wife that has three qualities. She needs to sing beautifully, play the piano, and be a doctor. I found Nhi, and one out of three ain’t bad,’” she said laughing.

Pham said she is just a normal person, and that the most special thing about her has to do with her faith and how she and her family got to America.

“The one special thing I can think of is God chose to save me and my family more than 43 years ago,” Pham said. “In 1975, my family had no choice but to escape from Vietnam after the communist takeover. My father, my grandfather, and my uncles and many relatives served in the American forces, so we had no choice but to leave or face persecution.”

Pham said her family was separated at sea, and she, at just 18 months old, her grandmother, mother, and seven other children all under 9 years old, floated at sea for seven days before being rescued by the U.S. Navy. Her family was planted in an Arkansas refugee camp before  being sponsored by St. Michaels Church in Snohomish.

Pham said receiving the award is humbling, and she wasn’t sure how to accept the honor. “The way I live stems from the promises I made in fourth grade to fulfill my duties as a good citizen to this country,” she said. “Beyond politics and laws, how I choose to live my life is led by my faith.”

Pham and her colleagues at the Mukilteo Dental Center have hosted numerous fundraisers and outreach programs throughout her 15 years of operating the business, and one of Pham’s favorites is by offering free dental care to veterans and their families on Freedom Day.

“I am just so grateful to be an American and to be saved by the American ships,” she said.

Currently, the Mukilteo Dental Center is holding its annual “Spirit of Aloha” fundraiser, raising money for the Mukilteo Food Bank. According to Pham, the center has raised and matched over $2,000 as of Saturday, July 28.

This, Pham said, is one of the reasons she loves the community so much - because of its generosity when it comes to her service and fundraising.

“It seems strange that I’m receiving this award. It’s truly our amazing and generous community of Mukilteo that needs to be recognized,” Pham said. “Every time I have asked, people from our town have come through for me.”

Look for Pham in the annual Lighthouse Festival parade, as she will be the parade’s guest of honor. Additionally, her name will be added to past winners on a plaque at the Rosehill Community Center.

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