Asian Dispatchers from the 2008 DNC

Print Friendly

AsianWeek has created a group of API delegates and participants that are currently at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado August 25-28. They will be giving us exclusive and timely information about what is going on at the convention as it is happening and as it relates to the Asian Pacific Islander American community.

Asian Dispatchers on the DNC include (in alphabetical order) Click here for their personal bios:
Karen Chang
Sophia Danberg
Shah Haqqi
Gilbert Keith-Agara
Dr. Debu Majumdar
Stephanie Ohigashi
Carolyn Sauvage-Mar

View their posts by clicking here –>


*****More on DNC:*****

AsianWeek at the Democratic National Convention


‘Joe B’ Talks to the Home Folks
Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 26, 10:54 am PST)

Joe Biden was a breakfast speaker for his home delegation. We had a hint something was happening when the parking lot got cleared early. Only credentialed press and Delaware folks got in – there was a swarm of media that quickly piled in past the Hawaii hospitality room and just as quickly disappeared when the putative Democratic VP NOMINEE was done. We got to sit in with Arkansas to hear their senior US Senator Blanche Lincoln who managed not to mention Barack Obama by name. She did say “change” a few times in front of us people from Obama’s home state so I chalk it up as an oversight. We gave her a flower lei in Aloha anyway. In Hawaii’s own caucus, we heard from Tim Carmichael on Obama’s energy policies. Hawaii currently has some solar, wind and geothermal with potential for more under Hawaii’s portfolio standards… as well as wave and biofuel experimentation. But we are still dependent on diesel and coal based utilities with no net metering.

Monday at the DNC
Karen Chang (August 25, 11:44 pm PST)

WOW. Michelle Obama is an amazing woman and I think she will be an amazing First Lady. I had a chance to see Michelle Obama at a fundraiser in Los Angeles and from my own personal opinion, I think she is a lot better just speaking from her heart than reading from a teleprompter. However, she was still awesome tonight.

In other Asian American news, one woman really stood out to me today. Her name is Mee Moua from the Minnesota State Senate, a Hmong American woman who came to the United States as a child refugee. This girl GETS IT, and she gets it with PASSION. After the convention, there was a series of parties. One of them was the APIA Vote Gala where I had the chance to hear Mee Moua speak. To paraphrase what she said “I don’t care who Asian Americans vote for, but I do care that 100% of Asian Americans go out there and VOTE so that people can see that we do matter in politics and that we have a voice.” It was very empowering. She is very empowering. I am officially part of the Mee Moua fan club.

Maya Soetoro-Ng @ DNCC
Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 25, 6:03 pm PST)

Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke briefly on growing up with her older brother Barack Obama. Maya brings an AAPI presence to the stage for the first time. A teacher in Honolulu, she has stumped for Barack throughout the islands and the western states. Hawaii’s US Senator Dan Inouye and congresswoman Mazie Hirono will speak at the AAPI event later tonight but I don’t know if other AAPIs will speak at the convention itself.

Jesse Jackson Jr. followed Maya with a stirring and often soaring sermon with echoes of the proud history of civil rights advocacy by his family and the party.

DNCC Update
Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 25, 4:39 pm PST)

The Hawaii delegation got dropped off about five blocks from the Pepsi Center. Fresh from a luncheon with a Hawaii business leader, each member had a lei to go with our credentials and a dozen of us carried in haliconia stalks and flowers to decorate the state’s floor space. Security checked credentials at five places outside and inside the convention. The early speakers talk from the standpoint of various party constiuencies. It’s partisan. This is after all a party convention. John Legend’s performance is a highlight of the first two hours.

Sunday at the DNC
Karen Chang (August 24, 11:30 am PST)

One of the most notable events that I can recall for today was the College Democrats event. While everyone (including myself) was pigging out on some Louisiana cuisine, the college Democrats was having a pow wow of their own in one of the large convention rooms.

Someone who caught my attention was spoken word artist Kelly Tsai. You can check her out at She spoke about the racism and sexism that went on during the campaign. How pundits and politicians talk about Black, White, and Brown… but what about the Yellow?! Like many of us, we want to hear what pundits have to say about Asian Americans and she spoke about that concern in her spoken word poetry to Young College Democrats. It was beautiful, and I give her a standing ovation to being that voice for young Asian Americans.

In other news, Congressman Mike Honda hosted an AAPI town hall to talk about how to get out the vote and grassroots organizing. The one thing that really stuck out to me was that Democrats actually have a real grass roots strategy. Watch out! In a neighborhood near you, you will see a Democrat volunteer knock on your door who is actually from your neighborhood. To be even more sophisticated, you will see a Democrat volunteer who will actually speak your language. This is completely common sense, but it seems as if it’s a new thing for Democrats to do and I think this is something that the grassroots Obama campaign has brought along for the Democrat party. Volunteers now have a chance to print out a walk sheet from the comforts of their own home without traveling to a campaign office.

**Fun Fact (maybe): Simply by telling the Obama campaign (through their new online volunteer system) that someone has either moved or is deceased saves the campaign $45.

**Fun Fact II: It takes a volunteer to knock on an average of 14 homes to secure one vote.

Democrats Kick-Off Convention With Interfaith Gathering
Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 23, 12:38 am PST)

After hosting last night’s welcoming party for Delaware, Arkansas and the islands, the Hawaii delegation this a.m. got an update on Denver’s three year old homeless initiative. Good reminder that issues need to be dealt with in a holistic way — not just providing job help without also looking at housing needs and treatment of chronic issues at the same time and in a cooperative way. My wife and some of the other delegates were very touched by the story of one single mother’s biggest concern about her homelessness — that her young son did not have friends of the same age due to their rootlessness. . . . This is not the kind of American communities we should want.

Some were still buzzing about Waipio winning the Little League World Series. We caught the game live while attending some of the APIA summit yesterday afternoon. Not bad for such a foreign exotic place like Hawaii to win the most American of games — it was great to see the kids from Waipahu cap a pretty good two weeks of sports involving athletes with Hawaii ties (Kai won a medal with Olympic women’s soccer team, two former UH Wahine won silver medals with the women’s Olympic volleyball team and Bryan Clay is the world’s greatest athlete as Decathlon champion).

No Text Message
Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 23, 12:38 am PST)
I didn’t get the promised text message about Joe Biden before getting an email from a buddy who had been online and seen the media reports about Obama’s VP selection. . .
Hawaii’s relative importance in the electoral college pecking order had been reflected in being housed an hour away from where the convention is being staged. But as noted earlier this week, the Hawaii delegation was scheduled to hear from either Hillary Clinton or Joe B. during one of the delegation breakfast meetings — I would guess the VP nominee will be in greater demand now but if Barry picked Joe B. because of his appeal to working people, wouldn’t it prove his everyman bona fides if he still appeared before the hometown folks out in boonieland (Marriott South Park Meadows) where the Delaware, Hawaii and Arkansas delegations are billeted. . . So the Hawaii folks may have a slightly different experience from the usual convention.

Gilbert Keith-Agara (August 22, 2:35 am PST)

At a local nonprofit fundraiser tonight in Wailea, I ran into a friend who has attended a number of Democratic National Conventions. In Denver, the Hawaii delegation has been assigned to the Marriott South Park Meadows hotel in Littleton, Colorado. One Hawaii delegate figured out based on the light rail schedule that we’ll be about 50 minutes away from the Pepsi Center where the Convention evening activities will take place. My friend commented that Hawaii is always in the “boonies.” We might be the birthplace of the party’s nominee but in the hierarchy of things political, the islands’ delegation doesn’t command center stage. She wonders, however, about the placement of Arkansas in the same quarters — I don’t know where the Razorbacks got housed during the Clinton years but to end up in the same place as four electoral vote Hawaii? Delaware, the home of another possible Vice-Presidential nominee, is the third state in our billet.
If Hillary Rodham Clinton or Joe Biden is picked, the opening reception Sunday night at South Park Meadows may be a little more memorable than expected. Both HRC and JB are expected to speak to the HI, AK and DE delegations at one of the breakfast meetings next week.

We leave for Denver on Saturday night on a direct flight from Kahului.


AsianWeek DNC ’08 Contributors

Karen Chang

Is the Special Assistant to California State Controller John Chiang. Prior to working at the State Controller’s office, Karen was a policy analyst at the Commission for Children, Youth and their Families for the City of Los Angeles. This is Karen’s second Democratic National Convention and she is excited to be going to Denver on a mission for AsianWeek. Karen graduated from the University of Southern California with a Masters in Public Policy and from New York University with an undergraduate degree in Finance and International Business.

Sophia Danberg –

Is a self-described “Undercover Asian” and Obama Pledged Delegate from Connecticut.
“I’m half black and half Japanese. I don’t look very Asian but have never (not even as a child) questioned that I am as much Japanese as I am Black-American. I was born in Japan and moved to the US permanently in the first grade. I describe myself as an Obama campaign groupie – following it from New Hampshire to six other states, ending in Kentucky. After I became involved in the Obama campaign, I joined my local Democratic Town committee and was recently appointed to my town’s Fair Rent Commission. This is my
first convention and my first campaign experience.”

Shah Haqqi –

Is the National Co-Chair of the Asian-American Finance Committee for Obama ’08.

Gilbert Keith-Agara –

Is an alternate delegate from Hawaii; his spouse Kallie is a Barack Obama delegate. A practicing lawyer in Wailuku, Maui, Gilbert campaigned in the dead of winter with Kallie in New Hampshire for Barack Obama. Kallie volunteered for the Illinois Senator as well in Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. Back on Maui for the February 19 Hawaii preference vote, Kallie coordinated GOTC efforts from their home. Gilbert Keith-Agaran served in the cabinet of former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano from 1995-2002 in the Departments of Land and Natural Resources, Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Labor and Industrial Relations.

Dr. Debu Majumdar –

Author of “From the Ganges to the Snake River,” originally came to the U.S. from India to study physics. After completing his Ph. D. and spending several years in Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan, he settled in Idaho Falls in 1980 with his wife and their two sons. He has spent 3 years at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria and a year at the World Nuclear University in London, England. He was inspired when he heard Obama’s speech announcing his candidacy and became an activist for him. He has not worked for a political campaign before. He has campaigned for Senator Obama in Idaho, Texas and Montana, and was elected as an Idaho delegate with the highest votes. He strongly believes that Obama will restore the image of the U.S. in the world. DNC in Denver is his first ever attendance at a political convention.

Stephanie Ohigashi -

Hawaiian delegate.

Carolyn Sauvage-Mar –

Bio not available.


About the Author