After enduring the rise in anti-Asian hate over the past few years, this month has confirmed political change and progress for Asian Americans. Evidence of this change can be seen from coast to coast, with Asian Americans winning significant elected offices.
For the first time, Seattle has elected a mayor with Japanese American ancestry in Bruce Harrell. Also, Michelle Wu, a Taiwanese American, was the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor of the city of Boston, while Aftab Pureval, of Tibetan and Indian American ancestry, was elected mayor of Cincinnati.
Yet another unmistakable trend is emerging, where we are seeing young people being elected to these leadership positions -- Wu and Pureval are both in their 30’s.
Locally, for over 100 years, one of the most traditionally conservative and non-minority entities has been the Port of Seattle Commission (comprised of 5 Commissioners). Even though more than 85% of our trade is with Asia, the NVC’s own Lloyd Hara broke the color barrier on the Commission in 2005 as the first Japanese American Commissioner.
Then in 2019, Sam Cho a Korean American, was elected to the Port Commission. I first met candidate Cho at the annual Densho gala dinner and was inspired to see that he was not even 30 years old! Yet, Cho has been highly effective at leading the Port through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, including outlining plans for the economic survival of the small business community at the Port.
Now just this month, Toshiko Hasegawa was elected to the Port of Seattle Commission. Hasegawa, along with Hamdi Mohamed, who also won her election, will become the first women of color to be elected to the Commission – in 2021! Toshiko and Hamdi are also both around 30 years old.
Toshiko has grown up in our Community, serving as a Board member for both JACL and Densho, Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, and of course being the daughter of proud papa State Senator Bob Hasegawa.
The Port of Seattle is responsible for billions of dollars in trade, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is critical to the economic development for this region. So, beginning next year, the Port of Seattle Commission will be comprised of not only persons of color but also young and visionary Commissioners who will play a major role in assuring that economic development will benefit all Communities in our region.
Speaking of elections and young people, the NVC Foundation will be developing our slate of Officers and Board Members over the next few months, with elections to be held in February. Our Foundation Board has several young and Yonsei Board Members who are highly skilled and capable individuals.
I am hoping the trend will continue and we will see even greater involvement from the youth in our Community, from both a leadership and membership standpoint. In the past, our younger Board members have been respectful and have deferred to their “elders” from an involvement standpoint. However, as we “senior citizens” ease toward the retirement door, we hope to accelerate the process of transitioning some of our key positions to the next generation of leadership.
Then, as the Nisei before us, we will continue our involvement on projects of special interest to us, while also assuming our rightful place at the NVC Hall relaxing, eating, drinking, and enjoying all the events sponsored by the NVC and Foundation.
Our next NVC Foundation Board and Membership meetings will be conducted on November 19, 2021. The Board meetings will start at 6:00 pm and the Membership meetings will start at 7:00 pm. Once again, the NVC Foundation Board meeting will continue to be held on a hybrid basis, both virtual and in person; the Membership meeting will remain as virtual only. Then, as usual we will have no meeting during the month of December so everyone can focus on spending time with family.
Everyone have a great holiday season as we close out the 2021 year!