This past Saturday, amid granola bars and coffee-sipping, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) held its 2016 Scholar and Intern (S&I) Orientation at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. CAPAL board members Alex Tran (SRA International – Associate Research Data Analyst, CAPAL Board Member – Vice Chair of Operations) and Carrie Kagawa (Department of Veterans Affairs – Senior Advisor and White House Liaison, CAPAL Board Member – Chair) provided an introduction and history of CAPAL as an organization, and Carmen Ye (Washington Center for Equitable Growth – Special Assistant, CAPAL – Board Alum) then led the S&I through an activity exploring their own family histories of immigration and their place in the US.
“No matter what, my dad believed that education was the key to a making it in the United States.”
“I am the first one in my family to go to college.”
“I am the first one in my family to come to the United States.”
These stories, followed closely by John Kusano’s (CAPAL – Advisory Council Member) presentation on public service and the CAPAL Board’s expectations of the S&I service Community Action Projects (CAP), wove together to emphasize CAPAL’s theme this year: Redefining Public Service. Orientation provided the groundwork from which S&I could become active members of a community dedicated to making their voices heard. A panel of alumni provided insight on how the organization helped shape their perspectives and prepared them to take on their careers, whether in the private sector or working for CAPAL itself. The panel consisted of Tonia Bui (Policy Analyst/Senior Consultant, US Department of Veteran Affairs – ‘06 Scholar), Kelly Kim (KCoe Isom –Sustainability Associate, USDA Forest Service – ’13 Intern), Andrew Lo (CAPAL – Program and Operations Associate, ‘15 Intern USDA Forest Service), and Emily Chong (J.D. Candidate at Georgetown University Law Center, National Credit Union Administration – ‘15 Intern). Advice flowed freely and continued to be given well into the evening as the S&I, board members, and friends met later that night for a Welcome Barbecue at CAPAL co-founder Chantale Wong’s house.
At orientation we learned that public service is “work in the service of others to make the world a better place,” and later that week we learned that this idea does not come without its challenges.
On Tuesday afternoon CAPAL staff and interns were given the opportunity to tour the Pentagon. As they were lead through its halls, they were told of its origin, history, as well as the stories behind the made changes that have been made to the building through the years. They walked through the halls of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were shown the areas that were struck by the 9/11 attack, recalling the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives in service to their country.
On Wednesday, CAPAL held Washington Leadership Program Session II: Election 2016, sponsored by Google, where issues of public service and participation were brought to the forefront. CAPAL Board Member Alton Wang (APIAVote – Communications and Development Associate) led an activity that helped us bridge the gap between issues we are passionate about and the elected officials who make policy surrounding those issues. He encouraged us to use our votes as our voices to enact change, but this also brought to light the challenge of AAPI participation in the political process, discussed by a panel consisting of Janelle Wong (Asian American Studies Program & Resource Center at University of Maryland – Director), Christine Chen (APIAVote – Executive Director, CAPAL Board Member Alum), and Alissa Ko (Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement – Associate Director).
The panelists provided a variety of internal and external factors preventing AAPIs from voting, listing reasons ranging from cultural upbringing to societal “myths” (i.e. model minority, perpetual foreigner, cold but competent, etc). All agreed, however, that enacting change begins with helping each other and putting our voices to use, starting dialogues within our communities and between communities. Google representative Coco Pannell (Election Programs Manager) informed attendees about how technology and available digital tools can amplify their voices, a fitting point considering this session was the first to be livestreamed on CAPAL’s Facebook page.
Much like the S&I Orientation on Saturday, the WLP Session highlighted the necessity of articulating oneself in order to enact change in the name of public service, and whether that articulation is facilitated by technology, knowledge of available resources, or the people who eventually become our partners, collaborators, friends…rest assured that it will be to strive to make the world a better place.
If you enjoyed reading about events this week, join us next week to experience them yourself at Washington Leadership Program Session III: Environmental Justice and our AAPI Roundtable Series: Irene Bueno.
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
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 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.