The Audacious Todd Park

Nov 16, 2016

I have never seen a technologist almost brought to tears over their love of country and the transformative impact of public service.

Todd Park, Clarence Wardell, and Lara Kohl

Yesterday at the Nation Swell Summit, I witnessed a bold display of love for a very unlikely source. I have known Todd Park for four years. In all those years I have known him in his capacity as the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and now as the White House’s Technology advisor. I have even on occasion collaborated with his office on expanding the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. I have hosted him while I was at Google and have seen him as a regular citizen supporting his friend’s - Mitch Kapor - non-profit. So suffice it to say, I am well acquainted with the man and his character.

Nevertheless, yesterday Todd Park managed to shock me. Todd and two of his colleagues, Lara Kohl and Clarence Wardell, presented a panel on “Redesigning Government for the Digital Age,” at the Nation Swell Summit yesterday. It started off as an exposition of the role and achievement of United States Digital Services (USDS) over the last three years but at some point, Todd seguéd a bit into his origin story.

Teary-eyed and shaky voiced he shared with the room of over 300 leaders how America had saved his family. He recounted how he grew up a son of immigrants who found their way to this country during the Korean War. He spoke of an America that allowed his parents to start over again, eventually raising two well-accomplished children.

I have never seen a technologist almost brought to tears over their love of country and the transformative impact of public service.

Thank you, Todd Park, for your service. Thank you for presenting and pitching the Presidential Innovation Fellows at the 2013 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference. Thank you, Jen Pahlka for inspiring Todd by founding Code for America, the model program on which inspired the creation of Presidential Innovation Fellows.

Thank you, Obama administration for your openness and inclusion. It has been an honor for this naturalized citizen to watch you these past eight years. Thank you for creating an environment where my voice was heard. Thank you for creating an environment where one early January afternoon, I found myself in a meeting in the East Wing of the White House, in the very office of the first lady of the United States casually munching on her apples while pinching myself to remember that this moment was real. Thank you, President Obama, for being a beacon of hope in a fractured and intolerant world.