The accomplishments of three immigrants are being recognized by the Iowa Council for International Understanding. Swati Dandekar lives in Marion and followed her husband from India to Iowa in 1973. Dandekar became a state representative in 2002, the first Indian/American woman elected to a legislative post in the U.S.
Dandekar says “My friends on (the) East Coast and West Coast when I was elected called me and said ‘In Iowa, a minority race representing a majority? Only in Iowa.'” She says when she flew to Iowa from India, she left Bombay in 98-degree weather and arrived in Cedar Falls to ten-below zero. Still, she says the reception was very warm.
Dandekar says “When I landed that day, my friends had told me that ‘Swati, we will judge you by who you are, not by the color of your skin, your hair or your eyes.’ They were true. Only Iowans are that open-hearted and big-minded that they will do that.”
Another person being recognized is Luca Barone of Waukee. He moved to Iowa from Italy in 1974 and is credited with helping create numerous ties between our state and that nation. Also, Wangmen Lee was a Vietnam War refugee when he came to Iowa from Laos in 1978. He’s credited with organizing numerous projects that help the Hmung people in the U.S.
Patsy Shors, president of the Iowa Council for International Understanding board told the winners she’s awed by their accomplishments. Shores says “You are to be commended and you truly do make this world, our world in Iowa, a richer, better place.” This is the fifth year the I-C-I-U has recognized accomplishments of immigrants or refugees to Iowa. The weekend event was held at the State Historical building in Des Moines.