|This year will be a turning point for Asian and Pacific Islander. More than in any other election year, a growing number of Asian Americans—from all walks of life—are becoming involved in the American political process. Most Asian Americans vote Democratic, and in this year’s tight Democratic race, we have the unique opportunity to demonstrate our political will in support of a diverse group of candidates.
Of the three candidates, Senator Barack Obama most closely represents the interests of Asian Americans. Senator Obama has formed an Asian Pacific Islander American Leadership Council that brings the concerns of Asian Americans to the forefront of this campaign season. Consequently, the Obama campaign does not merely perceive our community as an ample source of fundraising dollars; Obama is the only Democratic candidate to recognize the obstacles still faced by Asian Americans and to release a plan for aiding the Asian American community.
As a people, Asian Americans are very familiar with the struggles of being an immigrant in a new country. If we are not ourselves naturalized immigrants, we are the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of first-generation Asian Americans. Many immigrants arrive in America without furniture or clothing, and must save every penny just to get by. Many immigrants have trouble finding or keeping jobs matching their level of education either because of their broken English or their Asian faces. And many immigrants feel isolated from their families and neglected by a country that provides few resources to help struggling immigrants and their children achieve the American Dream that brought every American (Asian or otherwise) to this country.
As an Illinois state senator, Obama was also a strong advocate for protecting minority-owned small businesses and improving K-12 education. Obama was influential in immigration reform to ease the process of immigration and naturalization. Under an Obama presidency, Asian Americans would benefit from a $2500 reduction in healthcare costs for the average family, allowing the estimated 17.2% of uninsured Asian Americans to afford quality healthcare. Recognizing that over half of the Asian American community has achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, but that an increasingly large segment of the Asian American community is having a difficult time paying for tuition, Obama would make the first $4,000 of college-level tuition free. And Senator Obama has committed to the Asian American community that he will end workplace discrimination and maintain open lines of communication to established Asian American leadership throughout his presidency.
Obama’s full plan for Asian Americans can be downloaded at http://apaforobama.com/. (The site contains translations of Obama’s plan in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.)
But beyond this list of propositions for aiding the Asian American community, Senator Barack Obama is the candidate who most closely understands what it is like to be an Asian American. Obama grew up in Hawaii surrounded by a majority of Asian American people. As a child, Obama lived in Indonesia, where he experienced first-hand what it is like to adapt to a new country. Obama’s immediate family includes two Asian Americans: his part-Indonesian half-sister Maya Soetoro and her Chinese-American husband—Obama’s brother-in-law – Konrad Ng, both of whom are now Obama’s close advisors. Returning to America for higher education, Obama dedicated his life to helping communities like ours find a political voice. In return, several influential Asian American leaders and organizations have endorsed Barack Obama for president, including the Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.
Asian Americans can ill-afford to remain divided, or to continue to vote against our community interests; we must unite behind a candidate who is willing to have an open and honest conversation with us about improving our lives and the lives of our children. Senator Barack Obama recognizes Asian American people as Americans deserving of the same opportunities, benefits and protections afforded to every other citizen. He has a demonstrated history of fighting for a new America that takes care of all its citizens, not just those who have been here the longest and have had the fewest problems.
But it is our responsibility to help Obama make that vision a reality. On February 5th, I strongly urge Asian Americans to vote the candidate who is the most familiar with, the most committed to, and the most respectful of the Asian American community: Senator Barack Obama.