This article was written by Susan Breedlove and Tom Murray
Representative Fue Lee (DFL District 59A) and Assistant Majority Leader was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016. He is the first person of color and of Asian descent to represent our district in the House, and is the fourth Hmong American elected to a Minnesota State Legislature.
Lee was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1991 to Hmong parents from Laos. His father lived in the camp for 15 years when he took the opportunity to move to the United States, bringing his family to North Minneapolis in 1992 when Fue was a toddler.
Lee attended Mary McCloud Bethune Elementary School and Franklin Middle School before entering Henry High School where he participated in baseball, golf, Link Crew, Admission Possible and the National Honor Society. His first paid job was with the Cookie Cart as a teenager. He was known as a best dressed student, often wearing a suit and tie to school in order to be perceived as professional. Henry High teacher Sue Wright made an impact on him in selecting his life’s current path. Lee says, “After Attorney General Keith Ellison was elected to the U.S. House in 2006, Ms. Wright told me that she saw me contributing to my community in the same way as Keith. I still remember this until today.”
Lee graduated from Carleton College with a Political Science/International Relations degree. While at Carleton he was active in the Coalition of Hmong Students, Men of Color and TRIO/Student Support Services. The Carleton College website states that he was awarded a Multicultural Alumni Network (MCAN) Scholarship in his junior year, which supported his internship with the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARC). The next year, he was awarded the Technos International Prize, which is given each year to a graduating senior for outstanding academic achievement and a commitment to furthering the cause of international understanding. Lee had the opportunity to work with Congressman Keith Ellison on Minneapolis housing issues which inspired him to consider a role in public service, helping to ensure that many more first-generation Americans would have an opportunity to realize their American dream.
Lee’s first job after graduating from Carleton was as a political organizer for a local city council campaign and as an intern with Congressman Ellison. While working for Secretary of State Steve Simon as his senior administrative assistant and Representative John Lesch, this community organizer and activist co-founded the Asian American Organizing Project and Progressive Hmong American Organizers with former state Senator Mee Moua, DFL activist Yee Chang and community organizer Jay Xiong.
Susan Breedlove asked him, “Who has impacted you the most throughout your life?” Lee reflected, “My parents, for their commitment to my education and career goals despite not having the knowledge and resources to help me and siblings navigate the higher education process.”
Lee hopes to make a similar impact on the students who attend the community schools that led him to the legislature by sharing this advice: “Do not feel like you have to have everything in life figured out before going to college or after graduating from college. Continue doing the work you are passionate around and this may lead you towards a path you did not think about before.”
In 2018 when Lee addressed their Annual Honors Convocation, a Carleton College press release captured the impact Lee hopes to make for his constituents: “safer and stronger neighborhoods, educational equality, more inclusive government, and economic justice for working families.”
A cursory examination of bills currently authored and co-authored by Rep. Lee demonstrates these goals with 27 bills addressing environmental and safety concerns. Examples are: H.F.167 which is about improving public health by enforcing punishment for lead polluters; H.F.0547 The Taylor Hayden Gun Violence Prevention Act; H.F.907, a bipartisan proposal to increase young people’s access to high quality afterschool programs through Afterschool Community Learning Grants; H.F.94 making voting more accessible for disabled individuals and citizens who face a language barrier; and H.F.2137 minority-owned business development.
Contact Representative Lee with ideas and concerns about how he can best represent your interests or get on his mailing list: 485 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155, 651-296-4262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.