8 Asians

Source: Obama campaign.

Yesterday, Barack Obama spoke to a group of Asian Americans at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, because the fundraiser was in D.C., I could not attend… I’ve posted before about “Clinton, McCain and Obama Reach Out to Asian-Americans,” but none of them actually spoke live and in person to an Asian American specific crowd, so it was nice to read about this finally happening, even if it was at a fundraiser. The Washington Post reported about this fundraiser in “Obama, at Fundraiser, Pronounces Himself an ‘Honorary AAPI

“…The candidate’s entrance was greeted by an extended ovation. His 20-minute speech dwelled heavily on immigration and Asian-American issues, as well as his own background. Born in Hawaii, raised for a time in Indonesia, Obama said his first college roommates were Pakistani and Indian. “Most importantly,” he said, “I have a sister who is half Indonesian, who is married to a Chinese Canadian. I don’t know what that makes my niece.” “Being here is especially meaningful to me because I consider myself to be an honorary AAPI member, and I think I’ve got some pretty good credentials,” he said. The event was jointly sponsored by the Asian American Finance Committee and the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI Leadership Council, South Asian American Leadership Council and Indo-American Leadership Council.”

Clinton, Obama and Mccain have spoken live at other events, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) conference or National Council of La Raza (the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Unfortunately, the Asian American community does not have a similarly strong lobbying or civil rights group. Asian Americans are small in numbers, as well as small in political involvement and more importantly, donations (money speaks). As I have often said before, when it comes to civic engagement and involvement, Asian Americans are NOT the model minority. But I do think that Asian American civic engagement and involvement is growing, so maybe there is some longer-term hope…

On a related note, in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Jeff Yang writes: “Could Obama be the first Asian American president?” (much like how the noted Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton “our first black president.”)

“[Obama] was born and raised in Hawaii, the only majority-Asian state in the union; he spent four formative years in Jakarta, the home of his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro, where he attended local schools and learned passable Bahasa Indonesia. The family with whom he’s closest — half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her Chinese Canadian husband, Konrad Ng — are Asian American. So, too, are the most senior members of his congressional team — his Senate chief of staff Pete Rouse, whose mother is Japanese American, and his legislative director Chris Lu, whose parents hail from Taiwan…”

In fact, reading this as well as reading about his fundraiser yesterday, Obama does seem to project a closeness to the Asian American community than someone like Tiger Woods, who *is* half-Asian American (according to Wikipedia, Woods is one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch).

Yang makes an interesting case as to how a lot of minorities reflect their own experiences against Obama’s. Obama’s multi-ethnic background and upbringing is different from every president since the founding of this nation with Washington, but then again, maybe that is why the president’s home has always been called The White House (besides being painted white) :-). Obama is starting to reflect what America is becoming – a more multi-ethnic society beyond the shores of Western Europe. As one of Obama’s staffers commented in Yang’s piece: “It’s amusing watching people come up with these caricatures suggesting he’s not American,” notes Lu. “He’s not only American, his story is the quintessential American story. It’s the story that our nation is all about.”

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