'On Their Shoulders': Juju Chang talks pursuing the American Dream and why representation matters

ABC News Juju ChangPlay Matt Petit/ABC
WATCH Juju Chang talks pursuing the American Dream and why representation matters

In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, "Good Morning America" presents "On Their Shoulders," a series featuring newsmakers, actors and musical artists who share tributes to those who paved the way for them.

As an immigrant to the U.S. with her family at just four-years-old, Juju Chang said that becoming a co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline” is something that was beyond her "wildest dreams."

Chang and her family left South Korea to pursue the "American dream."

"I grew up helping my mom clean hotel rooms at our family business," Chang said.

As a successful Asian American woman who has broken the mold in her own way, Chang said she "stands on the shoulders" of trailblazers like Connie Chung, George Takei, Jeremy Lin, Fred Korematsu and more.

“I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the many trailblazers who paved the way for careers like mine,” she said.

'Representation matters'

Chang said that seeing the success of legendary television journalist Connie Chung, who became the first Asian American woman to anchor a major network news channel for the CBS Evening News, was an inspiration for her.

“It was my mom who spotted Connie on CBS News and said to me, ‘You know, you could be like Connie Chung,’” Chang said.

PHOTO: Juju and her family are photographed at a train station.
Courtesy Juju Chang
Juju and her family are photographed at a train station.

The “Nightline” co-anchor said she has looked up to Chung as both a friend and a journalist.

“She has been a beacon to generations of aspiring journalists like me, who saw their dreams through her,” she added. “Representation matters.”

PHOTO: Connie Chung, 25, CBS News reporter, Feb. 8, 1972, in Washington, D.C. CBS via Getty Images
Connie Chung, 25, CBS News reporter, Feb. 8, 1972, in Washington, D.C.

Leaders on and off the stage

Chang also praised actor and activist George Takei for his inspirational work both on and off the stage.

She said that when she was growing up, he amazed her with his iconic role as Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek.”

“[As a kid] it was captivating to see him on TV in such an inclusive cast,” Chang shared.

She also recognized Takei for his work as an LGBTQ advocate. He directed and starred in the show “Allegiance” on Broadway, which was set in a US-run internment camp during World War II. Takei used his own experiences with internment as a child to speak out against anti-immigrant policies.

Chang also acknowledged civil rights leader, Fred Korematsu, who was also known as the “Asian Rosa Parks.” He fought against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin is another Asian American figure who Chang said she admired for bringing the topic of representation to the basketball court. The Knicks launched his campaign “Linsanity,” which had a positive impact on Asian American fans who cheered him on. Juju Chang was one of those fans, and she still has the shirt to prove it!

PHOTO: Juju Chang is photographed wearing her Linsanity Jeremy Lin shirt. Courtesy Juju Chang
Juju Chang is photographed wearing her "Linsanity" Jeremy Lin shirt.

“He brought attention to the need for representation both on and off the court,” she said.

The journalist also credited “Crazy Rich Asians” author, Kevin Kwan, and Jon M. Chu, who directed the movie based on the novel, for “making a bold statement about Asian Americans in media.”

“Crazy Rich Asians” was a smash hit at the box office and was the first feature-length movie led by an all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” premiered 25 years ago.

Chang saluted these men and women saying, “I stand on their shoulders, proud and grateful for all that these pioneering leaders have done for all of us.”