ALBANY, NY – The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association Albany Chapter (APAPA-ALC) held its first ever Civic Leadership Forum for Asian Pacific Islander (API) American Communities in the Greater Capital Region on March 4th, 2017 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Clifton Park.
The Forum featured five Keynote Speakers representing state, county and local government, as well as local school boards: Neil Breslin (NY State Senate), Ron Kim (NY State Assembly), Kathy Jimino (Rensselaer County Executive), Phil Barret (Clifton Park Town Supervisor), Gary Dillalo (Shenendehowa School Board Member). Over seventy participants attended the Forum, including leaders from Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Vietnamese communities.
Fei-Fei Hagen, a freshman from SUNY Albany, led the Pledge of Allegiance. A beautiful violin rendition of the National Anthem was performed by Will Hu, a member of APAPA-ALC. HP Wang, chair of APAPA-ALC, welcomed everyone to the Forum and spoke about the four missions of APAPA: voter registration, civic engagement, pipeline development, and community service. HP also mentioned a long-term “deliverable”, which the Forum will help facilitate, to elect a member to a local School Board within five years. Anthony Ng, executive director of Pacific Vision Foundation, introduced the sponsorship of the Civic Leadership Forum in the US and David Wu, former US Congressman, facilitated the discussions.
Senator Breslin shared with the audience the story on the bigotry his ancestors faced when moving from Ireland to United States. He encouraged the audience, telling participants to “Come together, you are a force”. Senator Breslin also urged the API Communities to participate and act persistently, not just upon crisis.
Executive Jimino explained in detail on the services that local government provides, how the county-level government interfaces with the state-level as well as the municipal-level. Her passion for public service touched everyone in the audience when she said, “At the end of every day, when I look in the mirror, I feel happy because I know I helped someone”.
Clifton Park Town Supervisor Barrett greeted the audience warmly, recounting how vibrant the town of Clifton Park has become during his tenure, and challenged the audience to participate in public service, “Why haven’t you?” The key, he said, is to focus on things that bring us together, rather than dwell on things that tear us apart.
Shenendehowa School Board Member Dillalo spoke passionately about the nation’s public school system, providing the educated citizens necessary for democracy. He also shared his concerns regarding potential funding cuts for public schools, particularly inner city school systems.
Assemblyman Ron Kim vividly recounted the small grocery shop his family ran and was soon forced to close, and why he chose public service to represent small business owners, just like his parents. He prided himself in defying stereotypes, such as playing football as he was growing up. This innate defiance was of great value when representing Flushing as one of only two API New York State Legislators.
The elected officials also addressed the spirited questions from the audience, ranging from national issues on school vouchers, executive order on travel ban, and the recent surge in hate crimes, to where they can obtain information on local government, and advocating the creation of cricket fields in public parks. During lunch, Jerry Liu, Vice President of APAPA-ALC, reminded everyone of the upcoming internship program and the second Civic Leadership Forum.
This Forum provided local API communities a platform to learn about public service, interact with elected officials, find common ground and start working together towards developing a more much informed, engaged and vibrant API Community in the Capital Region of New York.