Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
In my role, I advise Secretary Locke and our Assistant Secretaries on legislative issues and congressional relations, as well as outreach to state and local government. I manage these efforts and the Department’s relationships with eight congressional committees of jurisdiction across my portfolio, which includes economic development, census/economic analysis, minority business development, innovation and entrepreneurship and recovery act implementation. Additionally, I advise Secretary Locke on Asian American and Pacific Islander issues and am working closely with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to increase access to and participation in federal programs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
Today, and throughout this entire month, we commemorate the courage and contributions of early Asian American and Pacific Islanders who journeyed to the United States, set up lives here against unbelievable odds and laid out roots for future generations. I know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my great grandparents and grandparents who left China after the war in search of a better life for our family in America. Their strength and perseverance continues to inspire me and is the story of many Asian American families in this country. During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we honor the pioneers, the laborers, the veterans, the entrepreneurs, the trailblazers and the families – all who worked hard to open the doors of opportunity to a new generation.
In the last two years since taking office, the President and his Administration have worked to lay the groundwork for America to win the future, stopping the freefall of the economy and investing in our long‐term growth and prosperity. The Department of Commerce has played an integral role in this vision and the programs and policies we are implementing cannot just remain in the DC beltway. In my role, I work with Members of Congress and state and local elected officials to work on developing better policies for our nation businesses and to let them know what programs the Department of Commerce offers to help their local constituencies succeed in this economy. I’ve always believed that the grasstops need to connect with the grassroots, and I feel that my role gets us one step closer to us sharing the message to the people of this country.
Prior to my appointment to the Obama Administration, I was the first Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). I had the unique responsibility to ensure that CAPAC was a leading voice for AAPI population, which has been historically overlooked, particularly on the federal level. I also worked closely with Senate and House Leadership, the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, national community based organizations, federal agencies, businesses and other constituency groups such as women, LGBT, African American and Latino groups to educate Members of Congress and their staff on pertinent domestic policy issues affecting our communities. I also was an advisor to Congressman Mike Honda of California on a number of policy issues ranging from health care, immigration and civil rights.
My passion for policy, advocacy and politics led me to be active in the past few Congressional and Presidential campaigns. I worked on the Obama campaign with their AAPI outreach. During the 2006 election cycle, I helped lead the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI pilot project in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the 2004 Presidential cycle, I was on the Kerry-Edwards Health Policy Team. I was also active in my community through my work and leadership with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, Asian American Action Fund-Young Professionals Group, Everybody Wins Reading Program and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.
To any young Asian-Americans who are interested in a career with the Department of Commerce, I would say take as many risks as possible, take initiative and never be afraid to ask questions. You're young and you’re energetic—this is the best time to learn as much as possible. This is the best time for you to work hard to learn about yourself, the issues you care about and improve your skill set to be an effective leader in our community. Lastly, take advantage of opportunities that land you a seat at the table because this is where you can share your thoughts and ideas to really make a difference.