2021 HIP Talks Grand Prize Winner Highlights Asian American Hate


Julianne Liu gives her 2021 HIP Talks speech titled, “Again and again and again.” (Courtesy Julianne Liu)

By Porshai Nielsen, Investigative Editor


“Our crescent-shaped eyes are swelling shut from the violent and verbal attacks of bloodied and bloodless battles, streaming tears as we hear the latest story and attack … We are the prodigal and rejected children of America,” said Julianne Liu in her award-winning entry to the 2021 Hinckley Institute of Politics Talks contest.

The annual HIP Talks public speaking competition took place virtually to abide by COVID-19 safety protocols, and Liu took the opportunity to share her take on the rise of Asian American hate, a speech that won her the grand prize.

The Hinckley Institute sponsors this event each year with ASUU to honor former Utah Congressman Wayne Owens — scholarship money for the contest provided by the Congressman Wayne Owens fund. HIP Talks “seeks to foster the public speaking skills of U of U students.”

Participants have the opportunity to receive the grand prize of $5,000 or one of five $1,000 scholarships for the four runner-ups and audience favorite.

Students were asked to film a two-minute-long speech on any topic of their choosing. Liu’s video, entitled “Again and again and again,” was one of many submitted by multiple participants who represented over 25 different majors.

Each year, the judges panel is composed of Hinckley Institute representatives and past winners. Kyle Tucker, the Hinckley Institute’s administrative coordinator, explained they try to keep the judging and student entries as diverse as possible

“We try to make sure that our marketing is cast wide across campus to all academic disciplines; making sure students know that whatever message they want to share is welcome. We also try to put together a diverse judging panel, which helps ensure that the winners who are selected come from diverse backgrounds as well,” Tucker said. 

Liu said she was not normally one to enter public speaking contests, but the rise of Asian American hate in the past few months inspired her to speak on the issues. 

“As an Asian American, my experience of the pandemic has been inextricably tied to these stories, many of which were no longer being featured in the mainstream news media at the beginning of this year,” Liu said. 

Liu has been following Bay Area news reporters on social media to ensure she is keeping up with news in areas that consist of large Asian populations. Every day she saw someone being pushed to the ground, robbed, carjacked or stabbed. One of the worst parts, she said, was that many of the victims were older Asian adults.

“My mental health had definitely been declining from seeing a steady stream of videos and images of these attacks, but I also couldn’t turn away. Then, Atlanta happened,” Liu said.

The Atlanta, Georgia shooting took place on March 16, 2021. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, who is white, murdered eight people in and around multiple massages and spa businesses in Atlanta.

According to The New York Times, six of the eight killed were Asian American women that were employed at the spas.

“Atlanta was a critical moment in the overarching pattern of anti-Asian hate and violence since the pandemic began as it brought attention to this racism and xenophobia once again, but it was not an isolated event,” Liu said. “I found that so many of my non-Asian friends had no idea that anti-Asian hate crimes were still happening daily. I was struggling to process not only the Atlanta shootings but also the larger invisibility of Asian Americans in the United States.” 

The deadline for the HIP Talks entries fell soon after the Atlanta shooting and Liu wanted to reiterate that this was not an isolated event, that there is a pattern of anti-Asian hate and violence, “Again and again and again.” 

Liu, who just recently graduated with a degree in French and environmental and sustainability studies and a minor in dark sky studies, said winning this year’s contest has helped her see the value and power in her voice.

She believes public speaking will always be a part of her life, both professionally and personally.


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