By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Confession: I stole an idea from Time Magazine, and it has benefited the Northwest Asian Weekly ever since.
In 1990, I had to attend my brother’s wedding in Hong Kong. There was only one problem. I couldn’t leave my work, as December was one of the busiest times of the year with lots of holiday advertisements. (Those were the golden days.) But, I could not break my promise to my brother.
What’s the solution? A while back, I read about Time’s clever idea to fill space during the slowest news season in 1927. Hence, the “Man of the Year” issue was created at the end of the year, and it was changed to Person of the Year in 1999.
Hey, we could recognize long-time community volunteers who made a difference. We selected the Top 10 Contributors of the Year, and wrote the stories in advance. I left with my two sons for the wedding, while my husband took care of business at the office. There was no dinner or event, just a special edition in both papers. Since then, we have named and honored hundreds of contributors over the years, both Asians and non-Asians.
Then, some honorees felt disappointed when they found out that they were being recognized only in our publications, and not in a formal setting. The issue was, if we added an additional event, would the community support it?
Could we handle one more event since the Asian Weekly already organized three to four lunches and a couple of dinners annually?
In 2002, we decided to test the waters—to do a Top Contributors dinner. Our goal was for 200 guests, and 220 people came. The event has now grown to more than 300 people.
What touches me most is not only the number of guests attending. It’s the loyalty of the sponsors. Early in the year, sponsors email to let us know they have set aside a budget for our event again because they enjoyed it so much.
They have been supporting us for more than a decade. This year, we have added a new dimension. Hopefully, we can carry on the tradition in the future.
Daring Men and Women
When an Asian American runs for office, it empowers the community. The inspiration is unimaginable. The glass ceiling is breakable. The impossible becomes possible. It’s been a progressive year for Asian Americans—a record-breaking number of Asians ran for office. We could not even include all the Asian candidates’ biographies in our election issue or endorse them like we had in the past. There were too many. Many won despite the fact that some races were crowded, and their opponents had more money, connections, and name recognition.
Take David Chan for instance. Re-elected as Snohomish County Fire Commissioner, his campaign was one of the toughest. He funded his own campaign (which couldn’t exceed $5,000) to run against not just his opponent, but his political PAC, which ran a full-page ad and sent out several mailers.
Running a campaign is difficult, especially for Asian Americans who were raised in our culture advocating humility and not tooting your own horn.
Dr. Tam Dinh described it as being thrust “into the spotlight and often times, it seems like it is all about me. Not only were the campaign activities of fundraising, candidate forums, yard signs, canvassing, and sign waving, the antithesis to my traditional Vietnamese upbringing, I found the constant spotlight on me difficult.”
She added, “To help overcome my natural reservations and insecurities, I reminded myself of my WHYs.”
Some newly elected Asian female officials, including Cynthia Delostrinos Johnson, Tukwila Councilmember-elect, Dinh and Dr. Francine Wiest, Bellevue School Board Director-elect have young children and a demanding job. Wow, that’s a lot of responsibilities!
“Fortunately, I had an encouraging husband, flexible work projects, a dedicated cadre of volunteers, and broad support from community members and leaders who helped me get my message out, put campaign signs up, and keep enthusiasm high all the way through,” said Wiest.
And some even took their kids along during their campaign. I have the utmost admiration for these political moms!
I will never forget the gutsy move by Bellevue City Councilmember Janice Zahn in a small group with Andrew Yang, who first visited Seattle on May 3.
She endorsed Yang right then and there. Yang was an unknown at that time. I asked Yang’s campaign how many endorsements Yang had received. Their response, “We are not working on endorsements.” That implied Yang had only a small number of endorsers worth mentioning. Or Zahn could have been literally be the first one in Washington state to endorse Yang.
Call them “Daring Men and Daring Women.” For someone who has the courage to run—putting her or himself out there—gambling for their future—sacrificing personally and their families—exposing their vulnerabilities and risking attacks and abuses—and above all, mapping out a successful plan to win, it’s absolutely remarkable. It’s scary for all stakeholders involved, and not just the candidate.
I will never forget what Rep. Cindy Ryu once said. “We (the community) need to support our (Asian) leaders.”
What can we do to empower our Asian elected officials? Instead of waiting for the Asian officials to establish themselves in their new role, why not celebrate now? They have lifted us up by running and engaging the community, and we will do our part to lift them up.
New format for Dec. 6 event
You need not worry about the Top Contributors dinner being too long and boring. Asian Weekly prides itself in ending the program on time. Last year, our Top Contributors Dinner ended at 8:30 p.m. This year, we divided our program into two parts: Short and long program. The short program will focus on newly elected Asian officials at 6:40 p.m. They are Janice Zahn, Bellevue City Council member; Sam Cho, Port of Seattle Commissioner-elect; Sofia Aragon, Burien City Council member-elect; Kim-Khank Van, Renton City Council member-elect; Peter Kwon, SeaTac City Council member; Dr. Tam Dinh, Mercer Island School Board member-elect; Francine Wiest, Bellevue School Board member; and David Chan, Snohomish County South County Commissioner. I wish we could recognize more.
We will introduce them by reading a short bio, but they will not give a speech afterwards. Their speech will be printed in the Asian Weekly the following week so you can read about them.
The long program will be about the Top Contributors. There will be no thank-you speeches. Each honoree will respond in two minutes to the question the emcee asks.
Please come and celebrate with a new league of amazing stars. Take selfies with all of them on stage. This will be a memorable moment in the history of Asian Americans.
The Top Contributors awards dinner is on Dec. 6 at China Harbor Restaurant in Seattle, from 6–9 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to topcontributors2019.bpt.me.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.