Award Highlights Immigration Reform Leader’s Lifelong Dedication to Global, Local Community
HOUSTON, November 19, 2020 — Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) presented its annual Roy M. Huffington Award to Charles C. Foster in its first virtual award ceremony on November 13. Sushila and Durga Agrawal, Muffet Blake, Patti and Richard Everett, Lily and Hamid Kooros, Cindy and Frank Liu, Reinnette and Stan Marek, and Soraya and Scott McClelland served as honorary co-chairs. The festive event included a special VIP reception via Zoom, engaging stories from many of Foster’s family and friends, as well as an in-depth conversation between Dr. Anne Chao and Foster reflecting back on his life and accomplishments.
Mr. Foster, who served as Chair of the ASTC Board of Directors for 24 years, was honored for his lifelong leadership in immigration reform, his service to the community both locally and globally, and his extraordinary impact on individuals’ lives. Currently the chairman of global immigration law firm Foster LLP and founding Chair of the State Bar of Texas Immigration & Nationality Law Section, Mr. Foster has led the Greater Houston Partnership’s Task Force on Immigration Reform since its inception, and was instrumental in expanding the American Immigration Lawyers Association into a national organization.
Throughout his career, Mr. Foster has tirelessly promoted international cultural exchange between Asia and the West. Beyond his stewardship and support of ASTC over the decades, Mr. Foster has also deeply engaged with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, the U.S.-China Partnership, the George H.W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations, the Houston Ballet, and many other organizations. He also serves as Honorary Consul General for the Kingdom of Thailand and has received several high Royal Decorations from His Majesty, King Bhumibol.
ASTC Chair Y. Ping Sun and President Bonna Kol opened the virtual event with expressions of friendship and gratitude, acknowledging that while “2020 has presented unprecedented challenges to our global community,” ASTC’s mission to “uplift human connectivity by building cross-cultural understanding” continues.
A special video paid tribute to the many different aspects of Mr. Foster’s life – from husband and father, to attorney, mentor, and friend. His wife Lily and sons Zachary and Anthony offered a glimpse into Mr. Foster’s less well-known love of mountaineering, singing, and Western movies. The video also highlighted Mr. Foster’s many contributions to ASTC as well as his friendship, mentorship, and legal aid to new immigrants. Notably, world-renowned ballet dancer Li Cunxin, whom Mr. Foster represented in what he says was the most important case of his career, spoke of the attorney he now cherishes as a mentor and friend.
“Without Charles’ help, I would not be where I am today,” Li said. “Charles is a very special man, one of a kind. His intellect, his intense interest in politics, arts, philanthropy – he just wants to make a difference to society. I’ve rarely met a man with a big heart like his, and the kindness, the generosity. For me, Charles is a renaissance man. You see him everywhere helping everyone.”
Dr. Anne Chao, lecturer at Rice University School of Humanities, moderated a conversation with Mr. Foster about his life and career. Mr. Foster shared how his childhood in the Rio Grande Valley informed his understanding of Mexico and fueled an eventual passion for international and immigration law. He spoke with fondness about combining his law practice – which expanded alongside the globalization of large corporations in the 1970s – with a passion for policy. His interest in policy led to testimony before the House and Senate Subcommittees on Immigration and to his role as immigration policy advisor to both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama during their respective presidential campaigns.
Mr. Foster also credited his law practice for providing opportunities to meet many extraordinary people, including his wife – a film star from Shanghai – and for supporting his commitment to international organizations and communities. He has been instrumental in strengthening ties between the U.S. and China, which he echoed former President George H.W. Bush in describing as “the most important bilateral relationship.”
When asked for his advice to the younger generation, Mr. Foster encouraged them to “be involved. Don’t be on the sidelines.” He said, “Know what’s going on. Realize you’re passing through a moment in history and do something relevant, whatever that might be, for your community. Do something beyond just your professional goals.”
Following the discussion, the event featured a lively celebratory toast from ASTC Vice Chair Martyn E. Goossen as well as congratulatory video messages from actor Kyle MacLachlan, who played Mr. Foster in the movie Mao’s Last Dancer about the Li Cunxin case; Durga Agrawal; Richard Everett; Lily and Hamid Kooros; Cindy and Frank Liu; and Stan Marek. Dr. Chao presented the Huffington Award to Mr. Foster to conclude the special celebration.