President Joe Biden has lauded the Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC) for using the power of civic engagement to exert its clout and influence as part of its march toward political empowerment.
By “educating your members about the power of civic engagement, you are helping bring the full promise of America within reach for so many,” he said in a message to AAUC’s third annual National Civic Leadership Forum.
AAUC, comprising more than 13 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnic non-profit organizations, held the Sep 11-13 forum with the theme of “Asian American Pacific Islander: The Great Awakening,” at the Paris Hotel, LasVegas, Nevada.
“Your work reminds all of us that every voice deserves to be heard, that involvement in civic life makes a real difference, and that–in this Nation–everyone is meant to thrive,” Biden said according to an AAUC press release.
“The diversity of cultures and the breadth of achievement in the AA and NHPI community shapes and strengthens the fabric of America,” he said to the community which has faced a spate of horrific and bigoted racial attacks during the Covid pandemic.
The President acknowledged that the community is fully cognizant “that there is no singular AA or NHPI identity, but there is so much strength in the values you share.”
As his administration “works to build a more just and inclusive country, I am grateful to have partners like the AAUC by my side,” he declared.
“May you reflect with pride on the positive impacts you have made and will continue to make long into the future,” Biden said. “Together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Earlier, welcoming the delegates AAUC president and NCLF event chair Dr. S.K. Lo said AAUC believes that the AAPI community is no longer a passive, silent minority and argued that civic engagement is an important ingredient to become part of the integrated fabric of the USA.
“We need to capture this awakening momentum to create the change we all desire, ” she said. “It is the long-term goal of our forum to forge unity among our diverse communities and to speak with One Voice.”
“Thus, we have the power to change the environment for our communities and to live our collective American Dream,” Lo said. “It is our hope that through this Forum we are able to find the One Voice that unites rather than divides us!”
At the conclusion of the conference, Lo exhorted the conference leaders to draft a Call-to-Action Plan, “to create the change we want to see in the US at all levels of government from school boards to the federal levels.”
Reflecting the rise and influence of the Asian population Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, and Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony, were among those who sent messages of greetings.
Nevada’s First Lady Kathy Ong Sisolak and Kaying Yang, who serves on Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders representing Hmong ethnic community among other ethnicities, were also present.
The keynote speakers included Chinese American Maeley Tom, former Chief Administrative Officer, California State Assembly, who shattered the glass ceiling twice in California, county circuit court judge from Oregon Chanpon Sinlapasai, and Meta representative Mona Pasquil Rogers.
Former Executive Editor of India Abroad Aziz Haniffa, spoke on the importance of an independent media from the vantage point of a journalist with more than three decades of experience covering political and diplomatic stories and chronicling the immigrant experience of the South Asian and the broader Asian American community.
The plenary sessions included the “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Civic Engagement: Past, Present, and Future” and “How to Influence Legislation and Public Policy.”
Afternoon breakout workshops and sessions included topics ranging from Community Building, Developing a Successful Political Career by Election or by Appointment, Successful Community Engagements, Developing Political Skills, Building a Financial Support System for Nonprofits, Fundraising for Political Campaign and The Power of Block Voting; presented by Kevin Hirono of APIA Vote.
Moderators and panelists included, Suhag Shukla, executive director and co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation; Islam Siddiqui, who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and is now president of the American Muslim Institution; Angela Anand, vice president, AAUC and founder of the South Asian Women’s Network; Jack Hanna, New Portland Foundation; Haipei Shue, president, United Chinese Americans; Thomas Abraham, founder and president of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO); Anthony Ng, executive director of the Civic Leadership USA(CLUSA); Dr. Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.
At the gala banquet on the second day, Maeley Tom and US Rep Pramila Jayapal (in absentia), Washington state Democrat and chair of the Progressive Caucus in the US House of Representatives, were presented two special awards for being leaders exhibiting outstanding public service and political leadership.
The awards commemorate two past Asian American political giants — former US Congressman and Commerce and Transportation Secretary respectively in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, Norman Mineta and Dilip Singh Saund, the first-ever Indian American US Congressman.
President’s youth award went to Vivek Pandit, and Philanthropy award was given to the benefactor and major funder of all three conferences, Sandy Chau. The non-profit group from Minnesota, CACC was also awarded for doing great service to the community.
A cultural program followed with Chinese folk to Hawaiian and Samoan dancing and some rollicking Bollywood dancing, including the bhangra.
AAUC came into existence through the historic conference held in Alaska in 2018 in which 12 unique AAPI organizations and 20 leaders representing five major ethnicities — Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean and Japanese Americans — were present. Through the annual in-person/virtual National Civic Leadership Forum, AAUC has now connected more than 20 ethnic groups and 90 plus organizations. Other ongoing signature programs of AAUC, include its monthly podcast on “Building our Collective American Dream” and the web-based AAPI Community Hub project to connect all AAPI nonprofit organizations.