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At the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Informational Session this week, CAPAL interns, scholars, and staff learned about magnitudes.

“I want you to think. What were you doing 1,000 seconds ago? That was about 16 minutes ago.”

“1 million seconds ago? That was 11 days.”

“How about 1 billion seconds ago? 32 years.”

“Now lastly, 1 trillion seconds ago? That was 32,000 years ago.”

Bill Ma, a budget analyst for the CBO, forced us to think about the scope of the national debt and the importance of data analysis in making decisions, particularly in providing cost estimates of the impact of bills voted on by Congress. Nancy Fahey (Deputy Human Resources Director) provided a history of the CBO to back Ma’s presentation, putting emphasis on the relationship the organization has with Congress, the importance of communication, feedback, and data above all else, even if the non-partisan nature of hard data garners disagreements from both sides of the aisle.

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“You know you’re non-partisan if no one is happy.”

But it is this element of communication founded on an understanding of circumstance and fact, even when faced with the prospect of uncomfortable discourse, which was the main takeaway from the session. This idea translated to Wednesday evening when CAPAL hosted its Washington Leadership Program Session I: Communities of Color. Sandra Vu Le (MMC-TV host of “the American Journey”) began the conference by making attendees question the judgments they make of others, of first impressions. She stressed the importance of stopping stereotyping at the outset, taking a step back to evaluate and find commonalities among strangers, and to step forward with action to promote better understanding of people from different backgrounds. Cooperation begins with an open mind translated into an open communication.

A panel composed of Marita Etcubanez (Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC), Grace Choi (Secretary’s Office on Global Women’s Issues – Department of State), Lakshmi Sridaran (South Asian Americans Leading Together – SAALT), and CAPAL co-founder Paul Igasaki (US Department of Labor Administrative Review Board, CAPAL board alum) followed Le’s interactive exercise. CAPAL board member Andrew-Brian Nguyen (US Agency for International Development – UAID) moderated the panel, prompting the exposure of each of the panelists’ unique takes on how the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) has fit in with historical movements of the past. A commonality was found in discussions that jumped from Vincent Chin to the Orlando shooting to the Black Lives Matter Movement, when the panelists confronted the need for solidarity. Bringing these issues within the AAPI community to light, and aiding other communities to voice their concerns, requires joint action facilitated by communication.

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And so it circled back to communication, as part of the framework of solidarity. The facts must be agreed upon, plans of action must be taken, and even if it makes us uncomfortable, it will give a voice to those who were once voiceless. And this change may not be in 1,000 seconds. Or 1 million seconds. Or even 1 billion seconds. But this week we learned that each step taken in solidarity with another community, another organization, another person, is one step in the right direction.

Join us next week to experience Washington Leadership Program Session II: Election 2016. The link to register can be found here.


CAPAL’s Misison: Promote AAPI interests and success in public service careers, to provide information and education on policy issues affecting the AAPI community, and to serve the AAPI community at large.

Posted by Felicia Wong

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Felicia Wong is currently a senior at the College of William and Mary, double majoring in Neuroscience and Asian American Studies, and minoring in Biochemistry. She is president of the Filipino American Student Association, and current non-academic projects include creating films calling for greater diversity curriculums/requirements and establishing an official APIA Studies program on campus. Felicia was also elected president of Global Medical Brigades her junior year to lead a sustainable healthcare program in rural communities in Nicaragua. She hopes to connect her interests in healthcare with the community she has found in her cultural background and teachings. Having lived in Germany for most of her childhood, Felicia makes yearly trips back to visit her family, providing opportunities for her to indulge in her greatest joys: touring castles, eating at cafés, taking fashion cues from strangers, cooking with her family. Non-country specific pleasures include: biking, watching live music performances, screaming because Game of Thrones.