CAPAL’s signature Washington Leadership Program (WLP) held its fourth session of the year on July 16th at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center to discuss coalition building. CAPAL Board Member Grace Choi kicked off the session by breaking up the participants into groups of four to discuss topics that matter the most to them. The discussion responses included bridging the education gap, rising student loans, and the growing wealth disparity in America.

Grace shared her experience as a White House intern in 2006, and the challenges she faced due to the lack of diversity in her program. Grace added that she was grateful to have found groups like CAPAL, OCA, and other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations to meet others with similar interests.

Krystal Ka’ai, Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) stressed the importance of AAPIs having access to educational resources . Krystal also focused on the importance of coalition building to not only elevate one’s voice, but others’ as well. She talked about the creation of the Tri-Caucus and the Quad-Caucus in the Democratic House and how it has yielded significantly better results, especially in obtaining meetings with critical stakeholders.

Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at The Sikh Coalition reminisced the past 13 years of progress that the Sikh community had in combating bullying and racial profiling. He added that one key accomplishment of the Sikh community was the strengthening of their relationship to the Arab community following 9/11.

Joe Montano, Regional Director of the Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine discussed his work with educating AAPI business owners on how to remove barriers and succeed in running a business.

Daphne Kwok, Vice President of the Multicultural Markets and Engagement-Asian Audiences at AARP talked about how in the early 1990s, there were not many AAPI groups in DC. Regardless, the groups worked diligently on the civil rights advancement for Asian Americans. Currently, however, there are many more AAPI groups aimed at unifying the voice of AAPIs.

Lastly, all the panelists agreed that no matter what your professional career is or what topics are important to you, coalition building is a great skill that is often underutilized, but is critical to unifying voices to affect change.

Missed our previous WLP sessions? Don’t worry – we invite you to join us on Wednesday, July 29rd for our sixth WLP Session focusing on career reflections by notable AAPI community leaders. RSVP for this WLP session here.