The first event I attended at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Delegates Meet and Greet, about a 10 minute walk from the Charlotte Convention Center. This year, the DNC set a new record for AAPI delegates attending the convention – with over 300 delegates in attendance. At this reception, distinguished speakers included Mark Keam, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 35th District; Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary and Advisor to President Obama, Chris Lu; Steve Rao, first Asian American elected to public office in North Carolina, Morrisville Town City Council; Congresswoman Dr. Judy Chu, Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and Former Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of San Jose, California Norman Mineta.
00:00 – 03:20 – Daniel Chun, Welcome and Opening Remarks
03:20 – 04:20 – Dr. Chun, Welcoming remarks
04:20 – 09:45 – Mark Keam, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 35th District
10:50 – 16:25 – Cabinet Secretary and Advisor to President Obama, Chris Lu
16:25 – 17:45 – Daniel Chun, Additional Remarks and Thank You’s
17:45 – 21:45 – Steve Rao, first Asian American elected to public office in North Carolina, Morrisville Town City Council
21:45 – 30:20 – Congresswoman Dr. Judy Chu, Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)
30:20 – 37:45 – Former Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of San Jose, California Norman Mineta
37:45 – 39:04 – Daniel Chun, Final Remarks
As the event started, I realized this was a who’s who of Asian American leaders. A volunteer, Daniel Chun welcomed everyone and introduced all of the speakers, publicly elected officials as well as some who are running for office.
Dr. Chun, founder of The Chun Group (who founded the Asian Herald newspaper and the local Asian Library) first spoke. He had settled in Charlotte over 40 years ago when there were only 200 Asians or so (and and 4,800 in North Carolina) – Charlotte’s Asian population has now grown to 55,000 Asians in the area and over 250,000 Asians in North Carolina. Considering that Obama defeated McCain in 2008 by only 14,000 votes (out of 4.3 MILLION votes casted in the presidential race) – every vote counts! (Not like we didn’t know that in Florida in the 2000 presidential election!)
Afterwards, the next speaker was Mark Keam, the first Asian-born immigrant ever to be elected into the Virginia legislature and a delegate to the convention. As you might know, Virginia is a presidential battleground state with a number sizeable Asian American voter base that could help swing Virginia – like they did in 2008 – with more Asian American voters in 2012 (Asian Americans make 5.5% of the Virginia (Obama won Virginia by about 230,000 votes out of a total of 3.7 million votes casted).
Cabinet Secretary and adviser to President Obama Chris Lu spoke, in an unofficial and personal capacity, next to say hello and said that 30-years ago when he was in high school, there were not many Asian Americans interested and involved in politics. He highlighted that Obama has appointed more Asian Americans (including himself) to cabinet positions and federal judge appointments than any other president in history.
Next, Steve Rao spoke. He is the first Asian American elected to public office in Wake County as Morrisville Town City Council At-Large (and maybe in all of North Carolina, if I heard correctly).
Next, Congresswoman Dr. Judy Chu spoke. Dr. Chu is the first Chinese American woman to be elected into Congress and head of CAPAC spoke and welcomed everyone. She discussed that this was an amazing time for Asian Americans – with a record number of Asian American delegates – somewhere over 300. I think she also made some remarks that there were a record number of Asian Americans running for Congress this year (most of them being Democrats).
The final speaker was the “Asian American godfather of politics” was Norman Mineta, former Transportation Secretary under President George W. Bush and former Mayor of San Jose, California (and first elected Asian American mayor of a major U.S. city in the continental United States).
After the speakers spoke, I also saw a lot of familiar faces – including Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee, my friend Otto Lee (who is running for Congress), Jay Chen (who is running for Congress), Evan Low, Ash Kara (City Council of San Jose, California), Congressman Mike Honda, and some other familiar faces and also met Gene Kim of CAPAC (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus) – who put together the list of Asian American and Pacific Islander list of related events. At a later time at the convention, I’d be introduced to Mike Fong, East Area Director and Senior Liaison to Asian Pacific Islander Community to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – but I had seen him at this meet and greet event.
After some time, I did get a chance to interview Chris Lu – we did a quick seven video interview, which you can watch here. As I charged my camcorder and waited for the rain shower storm to pass over, I did eventually get to also see California State Controller, John Chiang, who is running for California State Treasurer in 2014.