Shinseki and Chu cabinet appointments signify new beginnings for APIs: Norman Mineta and Elaine Chao broke barriers by becoming the first API cabinet members, with much celebration from our community.
Veterans Affairs appointee Gen. Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Energy appointee Steven Chu are not considered household names like Mineta and Chao but are renowned within their professional circles. This administration’s appointment process appears to put less emphasis on political visibility and more focus on practical experience and achievements in targeted fields.
Steven Chu, secretary of energy: How many APIs were aware that Steve Chu was a 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner in Physics? How many were aware that a Chinese American was the director of the Lawrence Laboratory until the announcement of Chu’s appointment to secretary of energy?
It is a vivid reminder that, compared to the recognition given to entertainers and political and sports figures, the accomplishments of brilliant API scientists, engineers, academics and medical professionals — who make invaluable contributions to improving the quality of life in our society — often go unnoticed, even within our own community.
As the director of the Lawrence Laboratory, Chu shifted the laboratory’s work into advanced biofuels and other solar energy research. Chu is also a vocal proponent of controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully, Obama’s recognition of Chu’s leadership skills as well as his scientific accomplishments made him the president-elect’s choice for secretary of energy.
Often we see API managers who excel in science-related fields bypassed for top positions because there is a perception that these skills cannot be translated into high-profile leadership positions. This appointment can help break glass ceilings and forever change a public perception that has plagued this community for too long.
It’s quality, not quantity: I don’t consider the appointments of Shinseki and Chu API appointments for the sake of diversity. Shinseki and Chu are simply the best-qualified candidates who bring “added value” to their appointments because they are Asian. It is critical that our community recruits as many API candidates as possible to the talent pool for presidential appointments. But to meet the new bar of standards set forth by this new administration, our candidate pool must also be among the most talented in the country.
California API Legislative Caucus Members receive plum assignments: API legislators serving in leadership positions will continue to do so, with Alberto Torrico continuing in the Assembly as majority floor leader, Leland Yee as Senate assistant president pro tem, Fiona Ma as Assembly majority whip and Ted Lieu as Assembly rules committee chair. Freshman Senator Carol Liu will be chairwoman of the Senate committee on human services.
Assembly policy committee chairs include Mike Eng (Transportation) and Mary Hayashi (Business and Professions Committee). There’s a strong possibility that Assemblyman Warren Furutani may be the chairman of an Assembly committee to address the state’s changing demographics soon. The two freshmen members, Paul Fong and Mariko Yamada, are currently negotiating with the speaker for their committee assignments.
Short blurbs: In California, Mona Pasquil, former Clinton staff and political director to Gov. Gray Davis, returns to public service as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.
California Assemblyman Ted Lieu, chairman of the API Legislative Caucus, has filed to run for Attorney General in 2010. Lieu, the leader in the Legislature seeking sub-prime mortgage reform, will have competition from other declared AG candidates including San Francisco DA Kamala Harris. However, the crowded field can be an advantage to Lieu, who has already garnered the support of popular California State Controller John Chiang, Assemblyman Paul Fong, Campbell Vice Mayor Evan Low, Cupertino Councilman Gilbert Wong, San Gabriel Councilman Albert Huang, Cerritos Councilman Joseph Cho, Water Replenishment member Lillian Kawasaki and School Board members Jay Chen and Henry Lo.
Evan Low, Campbell City councilman, has declared his intention to run for vice-chair of the California Democratic Party. Cupertino Union School District Board of Education member Pearl Cheng was recently appointed to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Trustee board, replacing newly elected Assemblyman Paul Fong.
Congresswoman Hilda Solis’ appointment to secretary of labor provides an excellent opportunity for another API congress member. Solis’ seat is in the heavily populated API district in East Los Angeles. There will a crowded field of Latinos running, but this also provides Board of Equalization member Judy Chu, who just declared her intent to run for Congress, or Assemblyman Mike Eng a golden opportunity to seek a congressional seat.