By Ninette Cheng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Though politicians were plentiful at the March 31 event honoring Lt. Governor Brad Owen, it wasn’t a political affair. Rather, the Sunday dinner was about fun and celebration.
“We we wanted this event to be a very fun evening,” said Northwest Asian Weekly Publisher Assunta Ng. “That’s why we didn’t have very many speeches, just performances that reflected his life.”
The Northwest Asian Weekly hosted the special dinner, which took place at the House of Hong restaurant in the International District. In addition to an evening of celebration and entertainment, the event raised $7,250 in donations for the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) Food Bank, which was chosen specifically by the Lt. Governor. Albert Shen and Kasper Lee emceed the evening.
Elected into office in 1996, Owen is currently the longest serving Lt. Governor in the country. Since taking office, Owen has made it his mission to promote Washington state abroad. He has gone on over 20 overseas trips — many to Asia — to promote trade, business, and cross-cultural exchange with Washington State.
Owen has also been credited with opening the Taiwanese market to Washington wine. Officials in Walla Walla credited Owen’s work with producing an initial sale of $1.5 million.
“It’s just the thing that people in my position should do,” Owen said about his work.
Owen has also been noted as one of the most accessible politicians to the Asian community.
“He goes to more Chinese community functions than anybody I know in politics, perhaps only next to me,” said Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee.
During the event, several friends, family members, and community leaders appeared on stage to speak about Brad and Linda Owen.
Performances and gifts were presented to the Owens. Evelyn Wong performed a song entitled “Congratulations to Brad and Linda Owen” in Chinese. Lena Hou performed a song she wrote called “How Sweet is Brad Owen.” Debadutta Dash, co-chair of WASITRAC, led a Bollywood-style dance, bringing an unsuspecting Linda Owen on stage. Following the performances, community activist Nora Chan took the stage to introduce the Lt. Governor, who would play the saxophone for the audience.
“I stated working closely with the Lt. Governor 5 years ago when I joined him on an economic development mission to Hong Kong and China,” she said in Chinese. “I am impressed with him because he come regularly to Chinatown to meet us, join our cultural activities, and to help make our Chinatown a better place. He doesn’t just come here at campaign time to gather votes or fundraise.”
After the performance, Owen surprised the crowd with the highlight of the evening, a vocal performance of the popular Chinese song “The Moon Represents My Heart.”
Although Owen does not speak Chinese, he learned how to sing the song specifically for the event.
“It shows respect for people when you try to say even a few words [in their language],” Owen said. “I wanted to do something special for them in respect for what they did for me.”
Many of Owen’s colleagues came out in support that evening.
“It just shows that on Easter Sunday, a time for families, with Brad here, it’s just like a family celebrating,” Lee said. “He is a very community-oriented person. We are a part of his family.”
The event was well received.
“Asian Weekly’s event made everyone look good,” said Y.P. Chan, a China trade consultant, “It’s wonderful to have the participation of the diverse Asian community. The event raised the political profile of the Asian community. It also did good by raising funds for ACRS. It’s a win-win for the community.”
“We both feel so honored,” Linda Owen said. “[The community] has really embraced us and we’ve embraced them.”
“Everyone coming out on Easter was very emotional and moving,” Brad Owen said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am.” (end)
Additional reporting by Zachariah Bryan.
Ninette Cheng can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.