Washington Leadership Program: Elections and the AAPI Community

Post written by Sean Fisher (2016)

Use of photos granted by CAPAL.

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Panelists: Janelle Wong, Christine Chen, Alissa Ko, and moderator Alton Wang.

My time with the International Leadership Foundation (ILF) here in Washington DC has been very busy thus far; after my normal workday at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), my evenings have been filled with many opportunities to attend networking events and panels on a wide range of topics. Recently, the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leader-Washington Leadership Program (CAPAL-WLP) hosted a discussion and panel concerning elections and how they relate to the AAPI community.

The CAPAL-WLP program hosts these weekly events in order to discuss a wider theme of re-defining what public service means. In the recent discussion on elections, the focus was placed on how voting is important to expressing one’s voice and opinion in order to affect those issues most important to him or her. While this is the obvious conclusion when considering elections and public service, the speakers and panelists also made sure to discuss alternative means of public service in regards to elections. Helping people register to vote, going out and encouraging others to vote, helping inform people on issues, or even simply taking the time to discuss and debate issues affecting the country can all make a big difference, especially in the AAPI community where registration rates and civic debates are lower in comparison to those in other minority groups.

When the panelists were discussing how campaign strategy has involved the AAPI community, one notable point that stuck out to me was that members of the AAPI community tended to be geographically concentrated in pre-dominantly “blue” state where many are foreign-born and thus ineligible to vote. To illustrate this point, they asked how many of the attendees were from California, with a majority of the group raising their hands, myself included. I had never thought about trends such as these and how they relate to elections. However, change is on the way.

Campaigns and elections have been giving increasing amounts of attention to the AAPI community in recent years. Most notably, California had its first advertisements geared specifically towards Asian Americans, a huge milestone. Additionally, the number of AAPI advocacy groups working to advance the interests of the AAPI community has increased, working alongside the rising number of AAPI representatives at all levels of both the public and private sectors.

While all this positive change gives hope to the AAPI community, we must realize that broad and diverse coalitions involving all minority groups are needed in order to advance real and meaningful change in today’s world. When minority groups are able to achieve such solidarity, then all the diverse ways in which one can provide public service are able to make the biggest impact possible.

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2016 ILF Fellows engaging in group discussions.