On the first day of May, I attended the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Kickoff at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston. The event was hosted by Governor Deval Patrick’s Asian American Commission with a wonderful performance by the Boston Chinese Folk Dance Group (a troop of cute and sweet and talented little girls in pretty outfits!). Prominent guests included State Representative Keiko Orral, Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, and Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong (she is the first minority mayor in Fitchburg and the first female Asian American mayor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) with Governor Patrick delivering the keynote speech.
However, I thought the most inspiring and moving speeches were given by ordinary individuals of immigrant backgrounds including a high school senior at Boston Latin Academy, Chup Chiu and Simon, principal of the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. Chup talked about being a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong and experiencing difficulties and frustration in elementary school in America because of the language barrier. He was able to overcome that challenge by being part of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center and joining and eventually becoming captain of his high school volleyball team. Chup is now planning to attend UMASS Lowell and major in Architecture. Simon talked about coming to this country and originally studying Economics. After he graduated, Simon was approached to be a substitute teacher and he has been in the Education field ever since. He proudly talked about the notable accomplishments of his school such has having art and music curriculum being 80 percent of the school day (a big rarity in this “teaching to the test” environment). Furthermore, Leland Cheung specifically discussed his experience being the first Asian American member of the Cambridge city councilor (as well as the youngest), coming from a Physics and Aerospace Engineering background. He also talked about living in a country like the United States and having the opportunity as an immigrant to become a city councilor and understanding his parents’ sacrifice after going back to their home country for vacation and seeing how his cousins lived.
Moreover, having studied public policy, it was definitely an encouragement to see a number of Asian Americans in the public service sector (like those mentioned previously) from court judges to mayors and state senators. And thanks to the Governor, the number of Asian Americans serving in the Executive cabinet rose significantly.