This was our final week of the Washington Leadership Program and our Leadership Round Table! It has been an amazing summer for professional leadership development, full of inspiring Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) speakers with knowledge on relevant political issues and career advice for all different sectors. Our final WLP was about Communities of Color and the Environment. This session allowed for an informative discussion around issues that we often do not connect directly to the AAPI community or racism, social justice, and systems of power and oppression.
This program began with the showing of a Ted Talk by Van Jones, Yale-educated environmental and human rights advocate who advises the President on environmental issues. This was followed by a clip of Yeb Sano, delegate from the Philippines’ plea at the United Nations climate meetings for climate change to take higher precedence on the world stage following Super Typhoon Haiyan. These videos set the context for the program, and helped to set the stage for the next segment of our program, a discussion panel.
This discussion was moderated by Irene Lin, Special Assistant for the United States Department of Agriculture and our panelists were Kerene Tayloe, Federal Policy Associate for WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Clarence Tong, Legislative Affairs Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Mae Wu, Staff Attorney, Health Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). These experts shared their stories around working on environmental defense in Washington D.C. and the way environmental racism dictates the conservations we can have. One of the most important takeaways from this session came from Kerene Tayloe, who argued that when we believe environmentalism is irrelevant to people of color we are not afforded a voice in policies and initiatives that directly affect our communities, often in ways that those in power do not seriously consider or care about.
The next day was our last AAPI Leadership Roundtable, with Christopher Kang, Deputy Counsel and Deputy Assistant to President Obama, specifically in charge of selection, vetting, and confirmation of the President’s judicial nominees. Kang discussed his history and his goals of going into education policy, but how he felt that public service can be affected from many different positions, especially through an appointment by the President. He noted the way that since President Obama came into office they have more diverse judiciary than ever before, in race, gender, and sexual orientation. He also had a lively question and answer portion with attendees, discussing the intersectional place of women of color, as well as his hope to have more people of color go into pathways that can lead to judgeship, and not to ever settle, but to always find new ways to grow and go further in any career you choose.
The Washington Leadership Program and AAPI Leadership Roundtables have made for an incredible summer for our interns and all attendees, both within the AAPI community and outside of it to open up valuable discussions around issues that matter. We have our Professional Development Program coming up, another great supplemental series for those in the Washington D.C. area, and we hope we will see you all there next summer!
Posted by Taylor Huang-Boutelle
Taylor is an incoming Senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is double majoring in World Literature and Feminist Studies, with a concentration in Law, Politics, and Social Change. Taylor is in the D.C. cohort for the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (www.causeusa.org) and is currently a summer interns at the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, where she is focusing on development and fundraising, and will be developing the blog content for this summer. Taylor is passionate about issues of representation, coalition between underserved communities, and creating spaces for strength and solidarity around injustices through community activism and public policy. taylor.boutelle [at] capal [dot] org