Fellows Welcome Week: Washington Leadership Program Begins

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On June 8 from six to eight in the evening, the ILF Civic fellows attended the Conference on Asian Pacific Leadership’s 2016 Washington Leadership Program’s Opening Ceremony. Learned speakers such as National Association of Broadcasters’ Chris Ornelas and Teach for America’s Sarah Ha offered the attendees words of wisdom and dinner was generously provided by CAPAL.

The advice that the ceremony’s speakers offered was greatly valuable. Mr. Chris Ornelas started off the event with the backstory of how he came to be involved in public service. He admitted that, despite his work in the U.S. Senate and his family history of public service, he was unsure of how to define public service when he was called upon to speak at CAPAL’s WLP. He encouraged the audience to think about what public service means, which was in line with CAPAL’s theme for the 2016 WLP: “Redefining Public Service.” Mr. Ornelas encouraged the members of the audience to think of public service as any line of work that is supplying an essential service to the public. In Mr. Ornelas’ case, this meant communication. He went on to tell a personal anecdote of the moment when he realized the importance of public service. While visiting his grandmother, a tornado warning was issued and it was not easy for her trailer park to access news or radio signals to get informed on safety measures. It was in this moment that Mr. Ornelas realized how essential communication and access to information is. He came to see this service in a new light, and came to view his work even in the private sector as public service as long as it was for the good of civilians and in order to improve their lives. Mr. Ornelas ended his address by imploring the audience to keep an open mind and continue to come to CAPAL’s events. He said that, even if the speakers are not in a field that is particularly of interest to you, there is still much wisdom to be learned.

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Lastly, Sarah Ha of Teach For America’s Asian American & Pacific Islander Initiative led a “Head + Heart = Hustle” workshop that aimed to help participants identify their passions and unique abilities to ultimately build personal purpose and vision with regard to public service. In order to facilitate this, Ms. Ha gave a deeply personal testimony of how her past experiences and struggles fueled her current passion for making education affordable for immigrants and children of immigrants. After sharing her story, the WLP attendees drew a Venn diagram dividing up their “heart,” or the ideas and issues that make them passionate, their “head,” or their unique gifts and skills, and in the center of the diagram they identified their personal “hustle,” or their vision and purpose. For example, Ms. Ha’s “hustle” was that she was passionate about education and access to education for the AAPI community, with a special regard for immigrants. This exercise gave the ILF fellows a great chance to reflect on what their purpose of an internship in Washington D.C. was, and encouraged them to dig deeper in reflection of how public service factors into their vision and vocation.

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Written by Isabella Gatti, 2016 Fellow

Photos by Chris Wu, 2016 Program Manager