Week 4: Connecting with the Community

Amber Chong of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

I have only been working at the Office of Assemblymember Ed Chau for two weeks, but I’ve already gained so much information and insight into the role of local government. My average day consists of coming to work, creating news clippings (quick paragraph summaries of relevant news from that day), answering constituent phone calls, making certificates, and doing event research.

On the surface, those seem like very routine tasks, but their role in my community engagement has proven to be vital. Before, I had always neglected to pay attention to local news. My primary source of staying informed was through quick clips or links from Facebook and Instagram. But if those two social media platforms are my only means, I’m only ever getting national news that is either shocking, meant to garner views, or sell products. For someone who has been active in creating newspapers all her life, taking the time to scroll through the Pasadena Star News and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune has been refreshing. I’ve learned about issues regarding the #MeToo movement, gender discrimination in the workforce, and animal cruelty through the lens of my local community; it’s given me more empathy and conscientiousness towards my surroundings and grounded me in reality.

Answering constituent phone calls and making certificates are examples of how I tangibly connect with the community. Not all phone calls are simple because the bills being debated are serious and controversial; but overall, it’s nice to know that there are members of the 49th district who feel empowered to use their voice and have faith that the Assemblymember is listening. I’ve learned that although I may have differing viewpoints from those calling, we all share a concern for our families and integrity for our individual moral codes. My role is to listen to these people and make them feel appreciated for voicing their concerns, and in a democratic system, that’s very important. Civic engagement should be encouraged on all levels.

Amber Chong of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

Certificates may not seem like an obvious way of connecting with the community. At first, it was difficult for me to conceptualize how fancy paper and flowery language could mean anything. I mean, it is simply a social courtesy, right? To some extent, I still believe that is true. But I think a better word to describe it is a gesture. And in a world where there is a 1% and people are constantly being valued by their economic mobility, it is meaningful to reward advocates in our community for their altruistic toil. This was something I realized after going to two community events, one celebrating the Garvey School District for integrating computer science programs and the other celebrating South El Monte’s brand new water recycling system. Many of these innovations can go overlooked when so much is happening, but seeing the faces of those paving the way for change and their smiles after being recognized for their fierce efforts, my faith was renewed.

Jobs that require people to work in an office everyday and sit at a desk often have a negative perception attached to them. But for me, with my burgeoning interests in politics and my ever-curious ambition in finding a career, it’s important to note that the mundane is a matter of perception—fulfillment in work comes with noticing its purpose and seeking gratitude towards all the people you meet along the way.