FBI St. Louis
St. Louis Press Office
(314) 589-2500
May 8, 2023

FBI Honors Michelle Li with National Award

WASHINGTON, DC—FBI Director Christopher Wray presented Michelle Li with the Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for her service to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Ms. Li is a news anchor at KSDK – TV and the president and co-founder of The Very Asian Foundation.

Ms. Li turned a racist comment against her into nationwide pride for the AAPI community amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes. During a live news interview on KSDK, Ms. Li said she and most Koreans eat dumpling soup for New Year’s. A viewer left her a voice-mail criticizing her of “being very Asian” and to “keep her Korean to herself.” Instead of clapping back, Li took the high road which resulted in the launch of The Very Asian Foundation. Ellen DeGeneres donated $15,000 in seed money towards the foundation.

During the national ceremony on May 5, 2023, Director Wray told the recipients: “Like the 38,000 employees of the FBI, you don’t do what you do for fame—and certainly not for fortune. You do it out of kindness, out of compassion for others, out of a hope and a dream for safer communities....to leave your towns and cities better places than when you got there. And that’s how I’ve defined success here within our organization, too. Success to me is if everyone leaves the FBI a better place than they found it.”

The FBI established the DCLA in 1990 to publicly acknowledge the achievements of those working to make a difference in their communities through the promotion of education and the prevention of crime and violence. The FBI’s 56 field offices select the recipients annually for this honor.

On April 3, 2023, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jay Greenberg appeared on KSDK’s morning show and surprised Ms. Li with the announcement that she was selected for the DCLA. SAC Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division said, “By being mature in response to hate, Michelle Li turned ignorance into a celebration of diversity.” Ms. Li’s foundation proved critical for some young people. During a panel discussion with AAPI students nationwide, some revealed they or their peers created suicide plans because they felt unseen and afraid of being attacked and blamed for COVID-19.

The foundation established “The May Book Project” where experts compiled a list of AAPI books as a resource for libraries. Previously a student group asked St. Louis schools to buy AAPI books for their libraries. Only one school responded.

The continuous increase in hate crimes nationwide has led the FBI to elevate hate crimes investigations. This means each of the 56 FBI field offices across the country has been allocated more resources to conduct such investigations and outreach.

Director Wray hosted the 2022 DCLA honorees in a special ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, emphasizing the importance of partnerships in keeping our shared communities safe. These partnerships—as exemplified by the breadth of the work by the DCLA recipients—have led to a host of crime prevention programs that protect the most vulnerable in our communities, educate families and businesses about cyber threats, and work to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods. Learn more about the Director’s Community Leadership Award, the FBI’s general outreach efforts, and the St. Louis Field Office.

St. Louis DCLA Michelle Li

FBI St. Louis Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg (R) surprised news anchor Michelle Li during a live interview on April 3, 2023. Anchor Rene Knott (L) congratulated her

St. Louis DCLA 2022

Director Chris Wray and 2022 DCLA Honorees

FBI St. Louis 2022 Director’s Community Leadership Award recipient Michelle Li.

Director Chris Wray and Michelle Li