VOLUME 28 NO. 4 | JANUARY 17 - JANUARY 23, 2009

Our twist of fate with Obama

Last updated 1-15-09 at 1:08 p.m.

The cover of “President Obama Election 2008” is a collection of newspaper front pages selected by the Poynter Institute. The Poynter Institute is a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders through seminars, publications, and education on its Florida campus.

By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly

I have to admit, I did not even know how to pronounce Barack Obama’s name when he declared his presidency, but it did not stop me from supporting him.

The Northwest Asian Weekly and its sister paper, Seattle Chinese Post, share a significant date with President Obama. Jan. 20 is Inauguration Day for U.S. presidents, the day when they begin their term. When I started the newspapers, I had no idea that our anniversary issue would be published on the same day as the inauguration issue. Jan. 20 is the 27-year anniversary for both the Northwest Asian Weekly and the Seattle Chinese Post. We are honored to celebrate this day with President Obama.

Like Obama, we overcame difficult challenges in 2008. Despite all the negative news for print media, we are still here.

For the first time in our 27 years of history, Obama is the first presidential candidate that our papers have covered extensively. Is it because he’s a person of color? Is it because of the connection brought by Ruthann Kurose and her family?

It’s all of the above.

Kurose’s children actively campaigned and worked for Obama for two years and provided us with sources and stories. Kurose’s connections have brought President-elect Obama closer to Seattle’s Asian community.

Another association came from one of his classmates and a supporter. I got an email last February from Cathy Lee Chong, our former intern and Obama’s classmate.

“I hope you will vote for Barack Obama tomorrow (in the Washington state presidential primary election),” wrote Chong. “Barack Obama graduated in 1979, one year before me,” she continued, “from Punahou School in Honolulu. There were few African American students at Punahou, so most of us knew ‘Barry Obama,’ as he was called back then. He wouldn’t remember me, but all of us remember him.”

Punahou School has a student body population of 1,600 and enrolls elementary through high school students. Imagine all the school pals from grade school through law school who have campaigned for Obama. The number of supporters cannot be estimated. He has touched lives without even realizing it.
Why did I support Obama and not Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that I have been a Clinton supporter for many years? The truth is that the United States initially identifies me by my skin color and not my deeds. I am a person of color first, a woman second.

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett convinced me to vote for Obama without even talking to me specifically about him. Gossett is also a Black man. On Feb. 10, 2007, Gossett appeared at the Organization of Chinese Americans’ Lunar New Year’s dinner. I saw Obama’s face in Gossett’s. If Obama ran for president, Gossett could, too, I thought. If Black people can run, Asian Americans can, too! How Obama transcends racial barriers! People of color should not hold back or limit themselves. What excuses do we have for not achieving greatness?

“Have you met Obama?” I asked Gossett. “Are you supporting him?” His reply was positive.

“Can you introduce Obama to the Asian community?” I invited him to write an article about Obama. His Obama article was published in May 2007 in the Asian Weekly.

You might be aware that Obama placed a half-hour prime-time TV advertisement for seven network stations at $1 million a piece. It was remarkable how he also paid attention to small organizations like us. His Washington state campaign office placed four full-page advertisements in Northwest Asian Weekly and Seattle Chinese Post. No other presidential candidate had done that for us. We are immensely grateful to him and his campaign staff.

The ultimate gift for us was when the Northwest Asian Weekly’s cover of Obama’s election was chosen for the Poytner Institute’s book, “2008 Presidential Covers.” Our newspaper was one of the 75 national and international newspapers to be chosen for the book. Our Nov. 4 issue’s editorial on Obama’s victory was quoted several times by the Maynard Journalism Institute.

Never had we expected rewards come to us from supporting Obama. Obama becoming the president of the United States is our reward. The icing on the cake is that he has enhanced our fortunes and our visibility.

As Obama begins his presidency, he will face many challenges and turmoil. May he ride out all the tsunamis and make every American proud. (end)

Assunta Ng can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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