This week was perhaps the most loaded with CAUSE events since our visit to Sacramento. It also marked the end of the sixth week of the program, which makes me sad to realize just how close the internship is to ending.
The week began on Saturday, when I was fortunate enough to receive a spot for CAUSE’s final Political Institute session. It was an incredible opportunity to learn and hear from seasoned leaders who have been working in politics and in the community for decades.
It was also encouraging to know that there was this collective investment in organizing, energy, and dedication for helping nurture Asian Pacific Americans who are interested in becoming elected officials.
One of the speakers who particularly got me thinking was Dan Schnur, the Director of the USC Dornsife Jesse N. Unruh Institute of Politics. In his presentation, he drew from his own experiences as a campaign manager and as someone who ran for elected office to explain to us what we should consider to get ready to be a candidate. He also described his own understanding of what it meant to be a leader.
The piece of advice that I found especially helpful was when he elaborated how we should decide if we should run for office. He said, “True public servants concentrate more on what they can accomplish and what they want to accomplish, not where they want to accomplish it. Of all the things you want to change, what is THE most important one? Is being in elected office going to help you do that?”
Too often, many of us get distracted by focusing on what job title we want rather than what we actually want to do. Mr. Schnur’s advice struck me as a fantastic way to think about what I want my own relationship with public service to look like. It was an important reminder that public service cannot be about me; it must be about the work itself.
Following the Political Institute, we had our civic leadership workshop on Tuesday, where we learned about the Japanese American community and its rich history in Southern California and, more specicfically, Little Tokyo.
Similar to last week, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about a community that I have not personally had much experience with. It was eye opening to hear about the specific issues that are facing the Japanese American community today.
One of them is how to keep Little Tokyo alive, which is a question that many historically significant cultural sites and communities are facing today. Chris Komai, a Board Member of the Little Tokyo Community Council, put it perfectly when he expressed to us, “If something stays the same, it’s preserved, but it’s not alive.” The challenge is, then, to adapt in order to stay relevant and vibrant, not just trying to keep it the same as it was ten or twenty years ago.
Finally, the second issue in the Japanese American community that grabbed my attention was regarding the integration of recent Japanese immigrants into the community. This divide and difference between recent immigrants and more established Asians within the United States is also apparent in the Chinese American community.
Through our discussion, I was reminded that the timeline for Asian Americans is still being extended day by day. Recent immigrations are just as much a part of the story as the immigrants from fifty or one hundred years ago. Communication and building personal relationships with these newer arrivals are keys to forming a united front, as they are critical members of the community.
As in other civic leadership workshops, learning about the Japanese American community illuminated many lessons for the communities that I am a part of. I am excited to continue building solidarity while also understanding how to better navigate my own communities.