We now know who will face each other in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump.
Both candidates had to get their respective party’s nod before moving on to the November general election.
Here’s a look at the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) present at both conventions.
RNC July 18–21
On the first day of the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Kimberly Yee spoke about how her great grandparents came to the United States from China, looking for a better life.
Yee is the first Asian American elected to the Arizona State Legislature.
She said her parents “taught me that I could achieve anything I wanted in this great country.”
Yee told delegates, “It is time for us to get back to our conservative Republican values that make our nation great. We cannot endure the next four years like we’ve had for the past eight. And it is because of these principles that I support Donald J. Trump for president.”
RNC National Committeewoman from California, Harmeet Dhillon, opened the second night of the convention by delivering a Sikh prayer. She sang the invocation in Punjabi, then translated it into English.
Dhillon, 47, was born in Chandigarh, India. She emigrated with her parents.
The San Francisco lawyer was raised as a devout Sikh. “I had a very religious upbringing at home. That was very central to my life from day one,” she recalled.
Her parents supported Republicans after they became naturalized U.S. citizens.
Their politics were driven in part by her father’s contempt for trial lawyers because of medical malpractice lawsuits.
During the presidential nomination roll call, Subba Kolla, Virginia’s first national convention Indian American delegate, also became the first man of Indian descent to read Virginia’s presidential nomination votes.
Kolla, an immigrant who arrived in America 19 years ago, was chosen for a spotlight usually reserved for the delegation chairman or other prestigious party figures. Republicans wanted someone who represents “the new Virginia,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck.
As a prominent businessman, Whitbeck said Kolla was a strong choice, regardless of ethnicity. “But he’s also from a community that’s critical to our success in Northern Virginia and Virginia as a whole.”
Dr. Lisa Shin
New Mexico’s Dr. Lisa Shin is the head of Korean Americans for Trump and she spoke on the last night of the convention.
The optometrist and small business owner from Los Alamos told the crowd that Clinton is a “direct threat to the American Dream.”
Shin spoke about her parents’ emigration from South Korea more than 40 years ago, the hardships they faced, and the struggles they endured.
“[My parents] knew that America was an exceptional and generous country, where immigrants could become American citizens, participate in American democracy, and live the American Dream,” Shin said.
Calling Clinton unfit to be president, Shin said Trump will preserve the American Dream. “[Clinton’s] proposals would be utterly devastating to our economy,” Shin said. “Her dangerous ideology undermines our democracy and freedom.”
RNC July 25–28
The Democratic convention got off to a rocky start as some Bernie Sanders delegates and supporters, including AAPIs, were still not sold on a Clinton candidacy.
Then speaking for the Vermont delegation, Sanders moved to nominate Clinton at the end of the roll-call on July 26 to thunderous applause and cheers. He also spoke the day before, saying the November election must be about “bringing our people together, not dividing us up.”
Sruthi Palaniappan got to introduce her state to the DNC during the roll-call of votes.
“The point we were trying to drive is that our state is a state of female firsts,” said Palaniappan, an 18-year-old delegate from Iowa.
Palaniappan’s parents emigrated from India in 1992. She said she was happy to see Clinton adopting some of the policies Sanders promoted in his campaign, saying she believes Sanders can unite the party, but also added, “I think we also need to be able to listen to each other.”
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Chair of CAPAC, is the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress. She addressed the DNC on the evening of July 27, saying America needs a president who rejects hateful rhetoric and embraces diversity as the country’s greatest strength.
Chu highlighted how CAPAC’s membership includes Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who both spent part of their childhoods incarcerated in internment camps as Japanese Americans.
The other CAPAC members on stage included:
- Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — the first Asian American woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
- Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) — the first openly gay person of color to be elected to Congress.
- Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) — the only South Asian member of Congress.
- Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) — the first person of Filipino ancestry to be elected to Congress.
- Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) — the first Asian American elected to Congress from the East Coast.
Meng, who closed CAPAC’s moment on the DNC stage, said that AAPI voters are poised to be the deciding difference in the coming election.
“Our voting power has doubled over the last decade. We are now the swing vote in swing states like Virginia, Nevada, and in Pennsylvania,” Meng said. “I call upon my fellow AAPIs to organize, campaign, and vote, so that we will be the margin of victory in 2016 and beyond.”
According to CAPAC, this was the first time a group of elected AAPIs have been invited to speak at a national convention. And it was the first time AAPIs got that kind of national exposure. By sheer numbers, Democrats had twice as many AAPIs speakers at their convention than Republicans. With Clinton on her way to possibly becoming the nation’s first female president, it’s about time our community is seen and heard, and finally getting the respect we deserve.