November 2008 | By Jane Leung Larson
A number of Committee of 100 members exercised their political right to take a stand in the 2008 presidential election, campaigning vigorously for their candidates. From addressing rallies to canvassing, lending their names to political advertisements, raising funds, or donating their talents, Committee members made their voices heard this year. Below are just a few of their stories.
Ming Hsu, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (1990-1999), believes that political participation should begin locally: “As part of our C-100 Mentoring Program, my ‘pitch’ has always included getting young Chinese Americans interested and involved in politics—beginning with local politics. I’ve said that we can never be true Americans, regardless of our personal or business achievements, if we are taken for granted by both parties because we were not there at the local level at the beginning.”
As a long-time friend of Senator John McCain, Hsu said she admired and respected “his courage, integrity and the way he worked with Democrats as well as Republicans to pass important legislation—campaign finance reform, immigration reform, etc. and his strong position against torture.” Hsu supported McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries and again in 2008. “My role in the 2008 campaign included speaking at rallies in New Jersey and in California and traveling with the candidate occasionally. Since I've known Senator McCain personally for almost twenty years, I was able to speak with him privately on many occasions and had access to his senior campaign personnel. I was impressed with the Senator's gracious concession speech and strongly believe that he would work with our President-Elect and bring the electorate together behind President Obama so that we can move forward as Americans to tackle our problems at home and abroad.”
Ben Wu, who was Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce and the Assistant Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush, was a national co-chair for the McCain-Palin campaign and served as a surrogate speaker for the campaign at events, rallies, and conferences (such as the Organization of Chinese Americans National Convention). “I was proud to support Senator McCain's presidential campaign because he is someone who I have worked closely with in the past and I believe he is a man of integrity and honor with a strong record of service to his country.” Wu worked with McCain as a Congressional staffer and later when McCain chaired the committee that had legislative oversight over his departmental agencies.
John Chiang, California State Controller, gave a speech for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August and continued with speeches, interviews, and participating in phone banks until election night. After the Obama victory was declared at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, Chiang spoke to the crowd: “Tonight, all across this great country, American affirmed her promise of hope. Any child with dreams can grow up to be anything he or she wants, including the President of the United States of America.”
Robert Gee, who served as Assistant Secretary in President Clinton’s Department of Energy (1997-2000), was a member of the Obama Asian American Pacific Islander National Steering Committee and Obama’s Energy and Environmental Advisory Team. In addition to his involvement in finance and Get Out the Vote activities, Gee says, “I campaigned in Virginia, Texas, and Pennsylvania during the primary and general elections, registering voters, canvassing for support, giving speeches, and (in Texas) participating in a debate.”
Charlie Sie, Chairman of Aviva Bioscience Corporation, said that he participated in the Obama campaign through the Palos Verdes Democratic Club and was an election night commentator for Channel 18 (KSCI).
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at benefits for Obama, including a reception for Senator Joe Biden in New York City and a classical concert with Leon Fleisher and Itzhak Perlman in Maryland. He was one of many Chinese Americans who endorsed Obama in an advertisement published in the World Journal on November 1, purchased by two Asian American political action committees, the Asian American Action Fund and America’s Opportunity Fund.