The Sleeping Giant Wakes Up

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Asian Pacific Islander voters deliver: This historic election demonstrated three interesting trends. First, the voting strength of multicultural America can win elections; API voters can make a difference in key battleground states and are leaning more Democratic than ever before. The reward for API voter efforts is evidenced by the number of APIs involved with the formation of the new administration.

API talent spearheading Obama’s transition team: In addition to Sonal Shah, named to Transition Advisory Board, Peter Rouse, co-chairman of the the Transition Team and Chris Lu, named transition executive director, several prominent APIs were appointed to the Agency Review Teams. These team members will be responsible for reviewing all key departments, agencies and commissions as well as the White House, to provide the president-elect, vice president-elect and key advisors with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration.

APIs named to the agency teams include Ginger Lew (Economics and International Trade), Shirley Sagawa (Education and Labor), Audrey Choi and Barbara Chow (Executive Office of the President), Linh Nguyen (Government Operations), Parag Mehta (Office of Public Liaison) and Liz Fujii (special assistant to the Working Group members). Additional names are anticipated to join the teams.

Opportunities with the Obama administration: During the changeover to a new presidential administration, upwards of 7,000 government jobs become available nationwide and abroad. Some of the highest profile positions generally go to top elected officials and/or corporate leaders. However, the majority of the positions are competitive at all levels. The Plum Book lists all the positions and can be viewed online at If readers are interested in applying for one of these jobs, be prepared to relocate to Washington, D.C., where the bulk of the positions are based, and be aware that there is a rigorous vetting process for candidates seeking presidential appointments.

National API organizations are pooling together resumes of candidates to refer to the transition team. Here in California, the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans chaired by Dale Minami, a member of the Obama API Executive Advisory Committee, and CAPA member Yvonne Lee, a former presidential appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, are coordinating efforts to recommend API candidates to the transition team.
CAPA is also working with the UC Berkeley’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity project to combine some of their recommendations with the Institute’s list of candidates. The Institute’s goal is to develop a list of 300 highly qualified, experienced professionals interested in public sector service and with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to issues of social and economic justice. Spearheading this effort is Steve Phillips and Maria Echaveste, former deputy chief of staff to Pres. Bill Clinton.

API names touted for key positions in the new administration: API potential candidates for cabinet and/or ambassadorships include Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye, California Rep. Mike Honda, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, Tammy Duckworth, former Gov. Gary Locke, General Eric Shinseki and General Antonio Taguba.

Some former Democratic presidential appointees who give the API a deeper bench for higher executive levels include Glen S. Fukushima, former senior trade representative with the Clinton administration, Hoyt Zia, Jadine Nielsen, Laura Efurd, Maria Haley, Irene Bueno, Charmaine Manansala, Betsy Kim, Nancy Chen, Paul Igasaki, Stuart Ishimaru, Robert Gee, Rajen Anand, Tessie Guillermo, Jeanette Takemura, Angela Oh, Yvonne Lee and Michael Yaki.

National API leaders with strong credentials include: JACL’s Floyd Mori, president of the APA Institute for Congressional Studies William Marumoto, Dale Minami, Karen Narasaki, Daphne Quock, OCA’s Michael Lin and Ginny Gong, Gloria Caiole (AFSME), Courtni Pugh (SEIU), Vida Benavides (APIA Vote), Francey Youngberg, Bel Leong Hong (chair of the DNC API Caucus), Charlie Woo (CEO of Megatoys and founder of CAUSE), Annie Chung (Self Help for the Elderly), Jennie Lee Hansen (president of AARP), author Helen Zia, Irene Hirano Inouye, Gordon Quan (former mayor of Houston, Texas), Bill Kaneko (president and CEO of the Hawai’i Institute for Public Affairs) and Michelle Rhee (chancellor of D.C. Public Schools).

Individuals who served on Obama’s Asian American Finance Committee provide some excellent candidates for key appointments, such as Silicon Valley venture capitalist and committee co-chair Vinod Khosla, Sohaib Abbasi (CEO of Informatica Corp.), Romita Shetty, Nasset Ahmad, Cyrus Amir-Mokri, Swadesh Chatterjee, Dr. Stan Toy, Scott Oki and Mahinder Tak.

Other heavy-hitting supporters in the campaign who are potential candidates for appointments include Preeta Bansal (campaign senior policy advisor), Eddie Wong, Eugene Kang, Curtis Chin, Krishi Karthikeyan, Dave Kumar, Reshma Sajani, Yul Kwon and California Assemblyman Ted Lieu, an early supporter and current chairman of the California API legislative Caucus.

Thought for the day:
Courtesy of Betsy Kim: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run; Obama ran so our children could fly.”

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