Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, addresses the Democratic National Convention. At left is Rep. Ted Lieu of Los Angeles; at right is Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia. (NBC News)
PHILADELPHIA — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus were featured at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena, CAPAC chair, was joined on stage by other members of CAPAC as well as two candidates.
“I am proud to be the first Chinese American woman ever elected to Congress,” she said. “Standing with me are my fellow Asian American and Pacific Islander or AAPI members of Congress. Many of them too are trailblazers in their own right, and we are all proud to support Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.
“It wasn’t too long ago that if you saw an Asian Pacific American walking in the U.S. Capitol, you had to stop to do a double take. But how things have changed. We now have a record number of AAPI members of Congress, and most importantly we are organizing and making our voices heard. We have gone from being marginalized to becoming the margin of victory in key swing states and districts all across our nation.
Rep. Grace Meng of New York, the first Asian American elected to Congress from the East Coast, addresses the Democratic National Convention. Behind her is Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena, CAPAC chair. (NBC News)
“America needs a president who will fight for us, someone who rejects the hateful rhetoric that is too often used to divide us and believes that America’s diversity is our greatest strength. That’s why we’ve got to elect Hillary Clinton as our next president of the United States.
“When it comes to the issues most important to us, Hillary Clinton gets it. On immigration reform, she gets it. So many families have been kept apart for decades by an incredibly long family visa backlog. Hillary will fight to clear that backlog so that millions of American families can finally be reunited with their loved ones. We’re with Hillary because she is committed to comprehensive immigration reform.
“On education, she gets it. So many of our parents and grandparents sacrificed to come to the United States because they wanted their children to get a better education and live the American Dream. We’re with Hillary because she’ll make debt-free college available for all Americans.
“On voting rights, she gets it. Today, almost 70 percent of AAPI adults are foreign-born. Access to translated and absentee ballots is critical. We’re with Hillary because she will work with Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and ensure fair access to the ballot box.
“On making sure we have a diverse federal government, she gets it. We’re with Hillary because she will appoint an administration that looks like America.
“And on safeguarding our civil liberties, she gets it. I am proud to have Congresswoman Doris Matsui [of Sacramento]and Congressman Mike Honda [of San Jose]as members of our caucus. During World War II, both Doris and Mike were imprisoned in internment camps for no other reason than their ethnicity. Donald Trump doesn’t seem to see a problem with this part of our history. With Hillary Clinton, we know the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans will be protected.”
Rep. Mark Takano of Riverside, the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress, addresses the Democratic National Convention as a proud “gaysian.” (ABC News)
Matsui was on stage but did not speak, having given a speech the day before along with other female members of Congress.
“Tonight, we are also grieving for our dear friend and colleague, Congressmember Mark Takai from Hawaii, who passed away last week at the age of 49 after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer,” Chu said. “Mark truly had the aloha spirit, and was deeply committed to advancing the priorities of the people of Hawaii and our veterans.
“I will never forget the tears in his eyes when he learned about the Cancer Moonshot initiative. It gave him and millions of Americans hope that we will finally find a cure for cancer. In his memory, we’ve got to keep hoping – and fighting.”
Later in the evening, an “in memoriam” video of notable figures who have passed away since the last convention included Takai, Sen. Daniel Inouye, and civil rights leader Grace Lee Boggs.
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who introduced herself as an immigrant and the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, said, “I support Hillary Clinton because she is a lifelong champion for women, children, and families. And with the help of all of us, she’ll fight for all families – including immigrant families – in the White House.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate, addresses the Democratic National Convention. (NBC News)
Hirono also spoke on Thursday along with other female senators, including Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam said, “I support Hillary Clinton because she understands the unique needs of the territories, and is committed to the Asia-Pacific rebalance. She is a strong leader. We need her to move forward as a nation.”
Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands added, “I support Hillary Clinton because she believes that all Americans – including those in the Pacific Island territories – should have access to quality, affordable health care.”
Bordallo and Sablan are among the non-voting delegates in the House along with representatives of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.
Rep. Mark Takano of Riverside introduced himself as the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress. “As a proud ‘gaysian,’ I support Hillary Clinton because she is a strong champion for LGBT rights,” he said. “She will to fight to end employment discrimination against LGBT Americans.”
Rep. Ami Bera of Sacramento, the only South Asian member of Congress and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I support Hillary Clinton because she is the only candidate that understands the complexity of the world and is prepared from day one to lead America.”
Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the first person of Filipino ancestry to be elected as a voting member of Congress, said, “I support Hillary Clinton because she believes that all children deserve a quality, affordable education so they can reach their full potential.”
Scott also appeared on stage with the Congressional Black Caucus and introduced the vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine, a fellow Virginian.
From left: CAPAC members Ami Bera, Judy Chu, Mark Takano and Ted Lieu just before they went to the podium at the Democratic National Convention. (AAPI for Hillary)
Rep. Ted Lieu of Los Angeles, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, said, “I support Hillary Clinton for president because she’ll fight for our military personnel, our veterans, and our military families. She will make sure that those who risked their lives for our country get the health care and the resources that they need.”
Lieu also addressed the convention on Thursday evening, introducing retired Gen. John Allen (USMC), former commander of International Security Assistance Forces and commander of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan, along with other generals and admirals and veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rep. Grace Meng of New York, the first Asian American elected to Congress from the East Coast, said, “This election is so important, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can make the difference. Our voting power has doubled over the last decade – we are now the swing vote in swing states like Virginia, Nevada, and also right here in Pennsylvania. And I call upon my fellow AAPIs to organize, to campaign, and to vote, so that we will be the margin of victory in 2016 and beyond.”
Introducing congressional candidates Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois and Stephanie Murphy (who was born in Vietnam) from Florida, Meng said, “As our community continues to grow, and as we begin to see more AAPI candidates … run for higher office, it is critical that we elect a person who will make history for America and build a brighter future for generations to come. And that person is Hillary Clinton.”
The speeches were preceded by a video about AAPI representation, narrated by Norman Mineta, who served as a congressman representing Silicon Valley for two decades, as secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton and as secretary of transportation under President George W. Bush.
“In 1975, I joined Dan Inouye, Spark Matsunaga and Patsy Mink [all of Hawaii]in Congress,” Mineta said. “A few years later, we were joined by Dan Akaka [of Hawaii], Bob Matsui [of Sacramento]and Robert Underwood [of Guam]. We made a difference for millions of people in our country.
“Patsy Mink led the effort on the passage of Title IX, which opened doors to women by prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
“Bob Matsui, Dan Inouye, Spark Matsunaga and I led the effort for the passage of the bill that apologized to Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II and provided redress.
“Dan Akaka led the efforts on the passage of the apology resolution for the U.S. overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
“In 1994 we formed a caucus with the growing number of Asian American Pacific Islander members of Congress. We laid the groundwork for greater diversity in our government, so today the numbers of AAPIs in elected office are growing and so is their leadership.
“As a result, Judy Chu was able to pass the resolution of regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
“And this past year, Grace Meng and Mazie Hirono passed legislation eliminating derogatory terms in our laws relating to minorities.
“We came together to have a greater voice in D.C. and throughout the country. We learned from the lessons of the past to fight for a better future. When those making the decisions look like America, everybody in America benefits.”
Another narrator concluded, “Today there are 13 Asian American and Pacific Islander members of Congress and our caucus has grown to 50 members. Collectively, we work to protect and advance the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans and establish policies on legislation and issues that reflect the concerns and needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
“We are proud that our caucus has continued the tradition that Norman Mineta started, and we look forward to new leaders of tomorrow. Today we have a voice.”
CAPAC member Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a veteran of the Iraq War who lost her legs in combat, spoke out against Donald Trump’s candidacy on Thursday. Duckworth is running for Senate against a Republican incumbent, Mark Kirk.
CAPAC member Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on Tuesday nominated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president “on behalf of millions inspired by aloha, determined to seek a future rooted in love, compassion and justice, and dedicated to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”