APA Spotlight: Gloria Chan, Esq. President and CEO, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Gloria Chan currently serves as the President and CEO of Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS). Prior to joining APAICS, Gloria Chan spent over four years working on Capitol Hill advocating on behalf of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Most recently, she served as the executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), a caucus of 30 Members of Congress, then chaired by Rep. Michael Honda (CA-15).

In this position, Ms. Chan worked regularly with congressional leaders, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander national and local leaders around the country. Prior to this post, she served as legislative counsel to Rep. Honda, and CAPAC’s communications director. Her portfolio then included justice and commerce appropriations, census, voting, civil rights, and immigration. Ms. Chan came to Capitol Hill in 2006 as an APAICS Anheuser-Busch/Congressman Frank Horton Fellow.

Before moving to Washington DC, Ms. Chan clerked for US Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz in the Southern District of New York, and also was a judicial intern for New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan. In 1999, she founded Chinatown Youth Initiatives, a youth leadership nonprofit for high school students in New York City, the advisory council of which she currently chairs. She also served on the board of the Organization of Chinese Americans-NY Chapter.

Ms. Chan received her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and her law degree from Harvard Law School. She is a member of the New York State bar.

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies is a national non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office. APAICS programs focus on developing leadership, building public policy knowledge, and filling the political pipeline for Asian Pacific Americans to pursue public office at the local, state, and federal levels.

What is the mission statement of your life?

To inspire joy, love, and inspiration through truth seeking, genuine mentorship and friendship, community building, and the arts. I love healing, honoring and uplifting the human spirit.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

Growing up in immigrant and minority communities in a place as diverse and vibrant as New York City, I knew that not everyone had the opportunities I was afforded, but also knew that the American Dream is very real and must be continually bolstered. Dad went from being a factory worker to a senior executive at Wonton Food Inc., a Chinatown food manufacturing company that now is the largest noodle and fortune cookie manufacturer in the US. Mom worked in a garment factory, later in the Museum of Chinese in America as a translator, and finally spent ten years as a journalist for an ethnic paper in Chinatown on the community beat. I was influenced by her passion to make the world a more just place for disenfranchised and vulnerable communities.

From an early age, inspired by their life stories, I wanted to play my role in ensuring that the voices of immigrant and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities were heard in government. My mentors and role models in New York continue to inspire me, including Professor Betty Lee Sung, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, State Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Member Margaret Chin and many others.

I feel incredibly blessed to be community building on a daily basis, not with a sense of burden, but rather with a sense of freedom and joy. This is what I love to do!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Sandra Oh rocks.

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

APAICS is a national non-profit that is dedicated to promoting Asian American and Pacific Islander participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office. You can learn about our programs for elected officials, internships and fellowships on our website at www.apaics.org.

Our 17th Annual Gala Awards Dinner on May 4 in Washington, DC is one great way to learn about the organization, as well as our First Annual Leadership Symposium on May 3. There are special rates for young professionals and non-profit leaders.

CBS talent Daniel Dae Kim will be our celebrity gala host, 10-year old YouTube artist Maria Aragon and Jazz Violinist Meg Okura will be performing, and there will of course, be great networking among national AAPI movers and shakers. CAPAC Chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu will be making special remarks. Honorees include CAPAC Chairman Emeritus Rep. Mike Honda, Deepa Iyer of South Asian Americans Leading Together, and Comcast.

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

It is an amazing time for the AAPI community. I see great things in our future!!!

Census numbers are showing that AAPIs are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. Our communities are getting more politically active than ever, with increasingly robust and diverse fields of candidates with every electoral cycle.

Our community’s national infrastructure has consistently grown in sophistication and strength, in particular the White House Initiative on AAPIs chaired by former APAICS executive director Daphne Kwok, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) chaired by Rep. Judy Chu, and the National Council on Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), the council of 30 national non-profit organizations that give voice to our communities, chaired by OCA National‘s executive director George Wu.

We currently have three cabinet secretaries in the Obama Administration, which is historic. They are namely Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who will soon be the first Chinese-American Ambassador to China, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

There are roughly over 200 AAPI federal appointees, including White House staff such as Pete Rouse, Chris Lu, Tina Tchen, Nancy-Ann E. Min DeParle, Aneesh Chopra, Sonal Shah, Eugene Kang, Christopher Kang, Shin Inouye, Kalpen Modi, Miti Sathe, Bryan Jung, and Paul Monteiro. We are seeing more AAPI staff in congressional offices and engaging in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, and AAPIs in the media with organizations like the Asian American Journalists Association promoting leadership and professional advancement in the community. There are more and more AAPIs serving on the federal and state benches, supported by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and an increasingly active electorate through the work of APIAVote. These sectors and organizations will continue to become stronger in the coming years.

I have been fortunate to work under the leadership of then-CAPAC Chair Congressman Mike Honda, when I was executive director at the caucus. Here at APAICS, I feel blessed to work under the tutelage of Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and to follow a long line of talented leaders at the helm: Francey L. Youngberg, Rodney Salinas, Daphne Kwok, William “Mo” Marumoto, and Ruby G. Moy. It has been pure joy to dig through our past files at APAICS, then called the “Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute,” finding bits of history with leadership by our community’s finest including former Congressman Robert Underwood, Vida Benavides, Gloria Caoile, Susan Lee, Karen Narasaki, and many others.

In our future, I see activated bipartisan, ethnically diverse pipelines of AAPI elected officials coming from all across our country, including former Congressman and CAPAC Member Anh Joseph Cao, who has invigorated the Southeast Asian American community in the Gulf Coast, and APAICS alumni who have come through our programs including Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who currently is serving as CAPAC Whip. I see a coordinated national network of youth organizations and youth leaders, including the one I founded – the Chinatown Youth Initiatives in New York City – who are prepared to re-invest in our communities through our APAICS internship and fellowship programs, and leadership conferences. I see an activated network of APAICS alumni in various stages of their careers throughout our nation, ready to serve at the federal, state and local levels, and in all sectors – government, private, and non-profit.

It is an extremely exciting time and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of it.

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

Love yourself, love others. Nurture yourself and others with compassion, forgiveness, and total acceptance. Most of all – listen to your heart and follow it closely. You will be happy. That sounds like a great fortune cookie!

It’s tough to follow, but I have found that it is well worth the effort.

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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