Dear Friends, thank you for the invitation to share a few words.
We are here tonight to celebrate the good services that Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) offers to our community. ACRS is unique in its commitment to providing those services in a culturally appropriate manner; the staff and board deserve our thanks!
While we’re here to celebrate the delivery of those services, we are also here tonight because of the underlying mission of ACRS —and that mission (as noted on their web page) is to promote social justice; to promote the wellbeing and empowerment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and other underserved communities, including immigrants, and refugees and I might add regardless of their legal status.
We gather tonight to be reminded that we are one family; one human family. Our connections to each other may be our countries of origin, our language, our culture, or our neighborhood. But maybe our best connection to one another is our common dream and vision for an open and free democracy, a society governed by the rule of law where everyone gets a shot at success; our connection to one another may be indeed our desire for a community that reflects the underlying values of tolerance, respect, and simple human decency.
Today’s political climate is challenging. I think you would agree with me that there seems to be a conscious cultivation of mistrust and negativity that invites us to pit neighbor against neighbor. But as you also know, this isn’t new for us. Our community, in particular, has travelled this path before and our story tells the world about survival and the ability to thrive in the midst of such challenges.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Chinese Exclusion Act was the law of this land; or when we (the so called yellow race) were expelled from the cities of Tacoma and Seattle; or when Executive Order 9066 was signed and Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes to be imprisoned in detention camps; or when we as a race were not allowed to practice law much less occupy a seat on the State Supreme Court. The truth is that the politics of hate and mistrust is not new.
And yet as you also know, as evidenced by our presence here—we survived and we thrived in spite of those obstacles. We did so because of our resilience and active resistance to the idea that we were less than equal under law. We have been blessed by leaders in our community who have the courage to call us to do more and to stand in the public square for what is right—leaders like Ron Chew, Cindy Domingo, Frankie Irigon, Michael Woo, Al Sugiyama, Bob Santos, Ruth Woo, Diana Narasaki, Sharon Santos . . . and the list could go on and on.
Dear Friends, it is our optimism and commitment to promoting the dignity of the human person that brings us to this place today and to this moment in our history. And because of our history, I believe you and I are now called upon in a unique way, to step forward and to speak the truth.
In a time of division where other groups are being targeted, or deprived the protections of the rule of law, it is imperative that we double-down in making our values publicly known. We must lend our active and public voice to the call for civility and unity, and for the protection of those in our society that are most vulnerable.
Our community is a respected and powerful community and we can help fill a void in the public arena; we can fill that space with a message of tolerance, of compassion, of welcome. Our ties to one another and our commitment to fostering a kinder, gentler community that cares for the newcomer, the elderly, and the underserved will speak volumes to others. I am confident that despite these dark moments, we will have a brighter future because of you and the strength of our common connections.
I invite you to think about your role in preserving this democracy and the rule of law; to ask yourself, what would you do if you came to the conclusion that our democracy was truly at risk? What would you do?
I dare you to bless the lives of your children and their children, by giving them a better world to live in.
Please speak now, for their sake.