Best Nest: Shining in Emerald City 

Sam Cho, SIS/BA ’13, commissioner, Port of Seattle, and winner, AU’s 2022 Rising Star Award 


Illustra­tion by
Shaw Nielsen

Illustrated map of seattle containing Nasai Teriyaki, the Port of Seattle, the Original Starbucks, Pike Place Market, and Seatac Airport

I was born in Chicago. My parents moved to Seattle soon after. Now I live in Seattle, my home for a total of 22 years. In between, I’ve lived in DC, Maryland, and London, where I went to grad school. In my lifetime, Seattle has changed most through its demographics—we have more transplants now than native Seattleites—and the cost of living, which has skyrocketed.

A movie that least accurately depicts Emerald City is Sleepless in Seattle. Everyone talks about rain scenes and the famous line, “it rains nine months a year in Seattle,” but we have beautiful springs and summers. Still, a Seattleite can’t live without a rain jacket, an ORCA card for public transit, and a pair of hiking boots for trails. Gray and rainy days are fine by me. I think they contribute—along with our evergreens—to Seattle’s uncommonly fresh air.

The Seattle season I enjoy most is spring because the temperature’s nice and the cherry blossoms bloom. A perfect visit to Washington’s largest city includes a trip to its oldest farmers market (the 115-year-old Pike Place Market), a hike at Rattlesnake Ledge, and a stroll along the waterfront. Seattle and DC share a high concentration of ambitious young professionals and transplants. If I could transport one thing from DC it would be—despite its challenges—a transit system as extensive as Metro. But DC can keep its humidity.

You know you’re from Seattle if you wear a North Face jacket. You know you’re from Seattle if you eat Nasai Teriyaki. Seattle’s best coffee is Zoka Coffee Roastery. I also drink a lot of Starbucks. The best band to come from Seattle is Nirvana. The most famous face I’ve seen in my hometown is Vice President Kamala Harris.

Something neat about Seattle that people forget is that Jimi Hendrix was born here and Bruce Lee studied at the University of Washington. The biggest misconception about Seattle, while somewhat true, is the “Seattle Freeze”—that we’re cold to newcomers. But with so many transplants, it’s not as bad as it used to be. As Seattleites, we pride ourselves on our concern for the environment.

I ran for Port of Seattle commissioner because it made sense given the sum of my experiences in trade, and there was a lot I could contribute from my work in DC and doing exports on the ground. As commissioner, the most important thing I’ve learned is to have a big ear and a small mouth. In the next year, my top priorities for the Port of Seattle are expanding our trade relationships, becoming the greenest port in the country, and combating human trafficking.

When I need to get away, I go to Semiahmoo for the waterfront scenery, or Suncadia for mountain views. But my nest is best because Seattle has everything: a strong economy with a tech base, nature, tourism appeal, and diversity.