The 23rd CAUSE Annual Gala was held on Thursday, April 7, 2016 at the Westin Bonaventure hotel. The gala is the organization’s largest fundraising event that celebrates the organization’s efforts in advancing the political empowerment of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. It also provided an opportunity for CAUSE to honor individuals with exceptional leadership in championing the APA community. This year’s theme, “Our Votes Count,” showcases CAUSE’s commitment to mobilize the APA community to participate and vote in the upcoming November elections.
Here are some of the highlights:
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
During the opening remarks, State Secretary Alex Padilla encouraged, “It’s up to us, this generation, to seize this opportunity to create a cycle of voter engagement, voter empowerment, voter participation, and together, we will do it!”
“Our State of CAUSE is as strong as ever because CAUSE is not just us, it is all of us. You help us show the community just how much, ‘Our Votes Count,’” CAUSE Executive Director, Kim Yamasaki, delivered the first State of CAUSE.
Congressmember Judy Chu, a long-term supporter of CAUSE, remarked, “The theme of ‘Our Votes Count’ is more important than ever. If there was ever a time for APA members to raise their voices through their votes, now is the time.”
The inaugural class of Veterans Initiative fellows- Ensign Jonathan Kim, US Navy, and Corporal Henry Chan, US Marine Corps, highlighted their experience and the importance of supporting the APA veteran community. “There haven’t been a whole lot of APAs in the military – let alone APA role models we can look up to. That’s why the CAUSE Veterans Initiative matters so much,” shared Jonathan. Henry thanked CAUSE for “providing [him] with the confidence and resources [he] need[s] to be able to advocate for veteran needs.”
Congressmember Mark Takano delivered special remarks and congratulated the honorees for their achievements.
CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo and CAUSE Executive Director Kim Yamasaki recognized sponsors who have championed CAUSE over the years and stood by its mission in advancing the political empowerment of the APA community.
CAUSE was delighted to honor Emily Wang, former board member and one of the CAUSE’s strongest supporters, with the Community Championship Award. Emily has been an effective community leader in the APA community for over two decades. During her acceptance speech, she shared, “this is a power house- the power not only comes from the elected officials, but also from the heart and passion that we have for our community!”
The Leadership Academy, the longest standing program at CAUSE, has provided great opportunities and exposed the next generation of leaders to the political arena in preparation for their careers in public service. Former interns, Kristie Sham (Class of 2015 – LA) and Edwin Saucedo (Class of 2014 – LA; Class of 2016 – DC), recounted their invaluable experience and how it has shaped their perspectives in such profound ways.
“With each encounter, each experience, and each opportunity I was afforded in the Leadership Academy. I was constantly challenged to define and redefine my perspective. I have grown so much both personally and professionally,” shared Kristie.
Edwin added, “the Leadership Academy taught me what it meant to be a leader and how important it is to be connected with the communities being served.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu attributed his political success to organizations like CAUSE, “It is because of CAUSE that I was able to be where I am today. I used to be on the side making sure the next speaker is ready in line, I was doing the registration, and if it wasn’t for organizations like CAUSE, I would never have gotten the exposure and the opportunity to become who I am today. So thank you, CAUSE!”
Presenters Lisa Ling and Dr. Paul Song shared their appreciation for California State Controller Betty Yee. Both of them were happy to have Controller Yee as a role model for their young daughter.
“The important work that CAUSE does, not only in training the next generation of leaders, but also the next generation of issue advocates [and] the next generation of organizers. This is the work that we need to do to make sure that all voices are heard from our community,” California State Controller Betty Yee encouraged during her acceptance speech of the Inspirational Leadership Award.
Former Civic Engagement Leadership Fellowship alumni, Maxine Hu and John Ji, shared how the CELF program bridged the gap between APA immigrants and the local government. John pointed out, “CAUSE saw the barriers that keep APA immigrants from accessing resources they need and took action to change it. I was very happy to be part of it.”
California State Treasurer John Chiang presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Secretary Norm Mineta- 14th US Secretary of Transportation and 33rd US Secretary of Commerce. During his remarks, Treasure Chiang praised, “it takes some person of Norm’s stature to make [our] dreams [of serving the public and raising to positions of power] come true. And we need that more than ever today in America.”
During his acceptance speech, Secretary Mineta recounted his experience as a Japanese American and how it has profoundly impacted his view and his career.
He shared with heartfelt encouragement, “I want to encourage you to pursue your career and professional goals, and yet at the same time, try to help your community. All of us have two arms, one to help us climb that ladder of success, and that other arm is for you to reach down and pull someone up that ladder of success that you are enjoying, and bring someone as a mentee of public service.”
Thanks to all the sponsors and supporters, the CAUSE 23rd Annual Gala was a great success. Together, CAUSE is committed and looking forward to many more years of the empowerment of the APA community!