The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Grace Meng will become the first Asian-American woman to represent New York City in Congress. The New York Times already has described her as a potential political star. But she downplays the accolades: "It's nice to be a woman, and it's nice to be an Asian," she said in an interview. "But what's more important is what I can bring back to my district."
Meng was born and raised in Queens, a borough known for its ethnically diverse population. Her parents left Taiwan for the United States in the 1970s, and Meng says they instilled in her a strong desire to help other people. After debating whether to become a teacher or a lawyer, she ultimately chose law, studying history at the University of Michigan and later attending Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. She also worked as a volunteer on several New York political campaigns in 2006, including Hillary Rodham Clinton's senatorial bid.
Her father, Jimmy Meng, served one term in the state Assembly in 2005 and 2006. She originally sought to take his place, but residency issues forced her out of the race. Two years later, however, she won a bid against Assemblywoman Ellen Young. During her years in Albany, Meng sponsored bills on a variety of issues, including a measure signed into law in 2009 to eliminate the word "Oriental" — a term critics say is outdated and offensive — from state documents referring to people of Asian descent. She also worked to protect senior citizens from increasing property taxes as well as on other constituent-service issues.