Posted on 11 December 2008.
First, Gen. Shinseki was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary. Steven Chu was also nominated as Energy secretary. Then we learned that Anh “Joseph” Cao made history in Louisiana by becoming the first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress. To finish off the week, Yahoo top dog Qi Lu was hired by Microsoft to run its online services business, a prestigious position. He is now the highest ranking Asian American at Microsoft.
This is one of those rare occasions where we actually get to see progress happening in front of our eyes. Our Asian American communities have worked very hard for this movement.
What’s the next step?
Push for more — more appointments of Asian Americans on Obama’s staff and in the private sector. We need more of our people represented in high positions, not only because we self-indulgently want to see one of our own make it to the top, but because we have worked hard for it, and now is the time to be recognized for our eagerness to serve our country.
Asian Americans have the highest educational qualifications of all ethnic groups in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 48 percent of Asian Americans have attained at least a bachelors degree, compared with the national average of 27 percent and 29 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
We are qualified. We are talented. We need to keep this momentum going forward.
One thing to consider is pushing for Gary Locke’s appointment in Obama’s staff. With his experience in U.S.-China trade relations, he’d be a great asset to the Obama administration.
As we wind down the year, we should ask ourselves about the lessons we have learned and how we can apply our new knowledge into next year.
With Cao, we saw how an immigrant went up against the status quo on a platform of change. He is a Vietnamese American who was elected in a predominantly Black district. It goes to show that if you have the qualifications and you fight for the kind of issues that moves your constituency, you will eventually get your chance.
Another lesson is one about humility. So many Asian Americans come from impoverished backgrounds. This year, instead of hiding this fact, we have seen candidates celebrate their humble beginnings. According to the Seattle Times, while at Yahoo, Lu still flew coach with his junior engineers, even after he had enough seniority to fly business class. It’s looking like we are moving away from the days of big business hierarchies.
The lesson we should take away from Gen. Shinseki is knowing when to stick to your guns. He was famously forced into retirement because of his public clash with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over how many troops were needed in Iraq for the postwar occupation of the country. Gen. Shinseki’s estimates were greater than Rumsfeld. He ended up being correct after the fact.
And today his reward is a nomination from Obama.