Historic Presidential Town Hall

By admin
Published: Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Irvine, CA—On May 17, 2008 APIA Vote hosted a Presidential Town Hall at the University of California, Irvine. NAPAWF was an official supporting organization of the Town Hall and several NAPAWF members participated in this historic event. The Town Hall was significant in that it allowed the larger Asian Pacific American community to address the Presidential candidates on a range of issues. Over 2,000 community leaders, elected officials, voters, and students representing diverse communities all over the U.S. attended to hold the candidates accountable to the needs and concerns of our diverse API communities. “The Town Hall harnesses the growing strength of Asian American and Pacific Islander voting power,” said Eun Sook Lee, co-chair of APIAVote.

We are excited to share excerpts of Tanzila Ahmed’s live blogging from the Town Hall! Thank you Tanzila for your thoughts. Here it is!


Live from the University of California, I am here to give you instantaneous word on the API Presidential Town Hall going on right now. It’s 1pm, and I just got here. Volunteers, press, and community leaders are quietly milling around – HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] has a outreach table all set and as of this moment, the McCain and Obama tables are still empty. A group of Cambodian veterans just walked in and a small group of Pacific Islanders sit quietly in the corner.


I just walked around talking and meeting old and new friends. Community leaders from groups like SAALT, NAPAWF, APALA, National CAPACD are around – it’s good to see everyone here from across the nation here in Southern California. I give them all buttons that say “vote” in 7 different languages.


Congressman Mike Honda just walked in. He of course, is smiling as always.Actress Tamlyn Tomita (Stargate fans are drooling now, huh?) is MCing the beginning part of the event. So far the folks who performed were spoken word group Zero 3, the band Seriously, and some other UCI acts. But EVERYone is on edge waiting for Kaba Modern – of the MTV Dance Show fame. I walked by them as they were practicing in the hallway. I got kind of excited too. Then I saw Norman Mineta walk by and I got excited all over again too.


CA State Controller John Chiang just stepped to the podium to introduce Hilary Clinton. Only a small group of ten cheered for HRC when Chiang mentioned her name right now. Who would have figured with the way CA APIA’s voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in our Feb primaries. She will be here via video telecast. Apparently, they gave the candidates questions ahead of time, and she will be incorporating the questions in her speech.


Clinton is on screen! And just congratulated John Chiang!She says, “Recently I pushed in the Senate for Filipino veterans… I urged the House to pass the legislation…I rely on the community for advice on the campaign…”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform – “we need a system that is fair…Our current immigration status is in crisis…I’ll ensure we protect the sanctity of families.”

Healthcare – “That’s why I’ve proposed a universal health care plan… that would eliminate ethnic disparities…and provide funds for cultural competent health care professionals.” [She’s at least hitting all the key words for APIA health care – cultural competency, diversity, ethnic disparities]

Housing – “It is my goal that all Americans have access to affordable housing…”

So I’m not really that great at transcribing on the spot. But I tried! Nothing spectacular was mentioned. I think she was most on point for the health care topic – I think she covered every aspect of cultural relevance for the topic. Her housing issues were also well covered, but her education view point was WEAK. Total was about 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes.


So, Obama is supposed to call in. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t even make it to do a telecast the way Clinton did.Hon. Congressman Xavier Becerra is introducing Obama. Dynamic speaker and I just did a double take – he’s kind of Villaraigosa-esque. Community members are sitting on stage. Everyone is just kind of waiting for Obama to call in.


OMG! Obama is on the phone!! And they thanked the APIA Vote board! He’s thanking Asian American supporters in CA. “I wish I could be there with you but we are not done yet.” At least he’s in Oregon campaigning.He just got a big applause for being born in Hawaii. See, he’s Asian (kinda) too.


Healthcare – “I want to put out a healthcare plan that is affordable… that emphasizes regular check ups and screenings… in a way that is culturally component.”Voting Rights – “This is something I’ve been working on since I was a voting rights lawyer in Chicago.” How often do we ever here anyone bring up the voting rights of people of color? Maybe it’s because I’m wonk for voting rights, but this is so exciting!

Immigration Reform – “To the extent that we fix the legal immigration system, this is something I want to fix.”

Education – At least he’s acknowledging the disparities in education – we need to improve k-12. He totally is hitting education on the head MUCH better then Clinton did. He knows that APIAs are not all educated!


Love it. The woman asking the question next just said that Obama was attractive before she asked the question. She has nerves.


Oh! The next woman is asking the voter ID question, in light of the new ruling that the Supreme Court passed in Indiana saying it was legal to ask voters for ID last week. She mentions the fact that 27 million Americans do not have access to IDs. He opposes policies that ask for mandatory ID showing at the polling place. He will sign into law that requires transparency into state voting laws. “We shouldn’t be scaring voters, we should be bringing them to the polls.”


Oh my gosh. The call just ended. I know that was just a phone call, but that was pretty darn exciting. He answered the questions on the spot by community members that I kick it with – that’s pretty cool. That was like 30 minutes.I wonder how they are going to deal with McCain and if he’s sending a surrogate.


CA Assemblyman Van Tran is representing McCain’s office – he’s on the Advisory Committee of Asian Americans for McCain’s campaign. He just walked to the podium. This is like a big deal in the APIA community locally because Van Tran is…well, he’s a community leader that has some controversy around him. But he’s a nice guy – I met him recently. He’s just really hesitant in signing on to CA legislation and has a low voting record.Anyways, he’s talking about voting… and why APIA’s should get involved.

More media coverage of the Town Hall:




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