A special guest for the event was Congressman David Wu, the first Taiwanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dr. Xiaoyan Zhang Cheng, visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, gave the keynote address. Aided with a PowerPoint presentation, he spoke of the unequal representation of Asian Americans in the political sphere. He focused on the fact that Asians tend to pursue high-paying jobs in STEM, thus paying disproportionately high tax dollars compared to other communities. The interesting thing, he noted, was that despite the larger portion of tax dollars paid, the number of Asian Americans holding public office was not proportional.
He also spoke of the pervasive nature of unequal Asian American representation in performing arts. However cinematic hits like Harold and Kumar and Crazy Rich Asians, proved to Hollywood that stories about Asians, featuring Asian actors and actresses in lead roles, can be enjoyed by all – AND make money!!
“All boats are lifted when water rises,” was his message that resonated with all, highlighting the power of working together.
This was followed by a panel discussion led by Joel Wong, former President of APAPA Greater Bay Area about the need for Asian communities to work together. The panel included Angelica Cortez (Investor Relations, Silicon Valley Leadership Group), Somanjana Chatterjee (Diversity Ambassador, India Currents) , and Cathy Peng (CEO at ROCS Global), representing the Filipino, Indian, and Chinese communities respectively. The panelists spoke of of the need for Asians to work together and the successes that are possible with this combined effort.
The program concluded with a dance piece choreographed by Mythili Kumar, Artistic Director, Abhinaya Dance Company. The performance featured “I Have A Dream” — a piece in bharatanatyam (an Indian classical dance form) performed by Indian-American dancers, about the struggles within the African-American community, which was viewed predominantly by audience members who were Chinese-American. A beautiful example of working together!
Events like these are essential in educating a new generation of leaders drawn from within the Asian American community. True to Dr. Xiaoyan Zhang Cheng’s words, the face of genuine representation will be the election of an Asian American president in the near future.