May 22, 2009 11
The Yancheng group
from China kicked off
the annual Asian
Pacific American cele-
bration hosted by
Ron Roberts and Dr.
for Southern California’s
Lilly Cheng in front of
the San Diego County
Asian Pacific Islander
Obama’s first 100:
Cleaning up the mess
Bush left behind
Month is all
BY LEONARD NOVARRO
oughly 100 hours after the sunsetting about people
of President Obama’s 100th day, the
flurry of ‘favorable’ versus ‘unfavorable’
munity outside of Vietnam, known as “Little Saigon” in
analysis is quieting.
s we sat around the table over lunch, I looked at
the faces of the displaced, who became part of Westminster, Orange County.
The public is hungry and the economy
one of the largest Asian diasporas equal only to The U.S. Congress in 1977 called upon the President
depressed, but critics who claw at the
Filipinos. They are the Vietnamese forced from their to proclaim the first 10 days in May “Asian/Pacific
President’s credibility should unclench their
homeland in the face of war and born again in an adopt- Heritage Week.” The following month, Senators Daniel
fists, for their analysis must recognize the
ed country they now call their own. Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in
inherited policies from the previous View From
You’ve heard these stories before – of immigrants the Senate. Both were passed, and on Oct. 5, 1978,
President’s final 100 days and the potential
fleeing to the United States with little or no money, but President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution desig-
yield of the forthcoming 100 days. Only
By Mike Honda
through an indomitable will, supreme intelligence and a nating the annual celebration.
then, can an accurate accounting be cast.
burning desire, they did more than just succeed. Many The holiday was expanded further, for a month,
On economic policy, the previous
of them excelled beyond their own expectations. under President George H. Bush in 1990 and today is
President, aided by a Republican-controlled Congress, doubled the
They are what gives Asian Pacific American celebrated with festivals, seminars, educational and gov-
national debt to $10 trillion and quintupled the budget deficit from
Heritage Month its true meaning and why we in the API ernment events and other gatherings, such as the one
Clinton surpluses. The dollar’s decline, moreover, is due, in part, to
community attach special significance to May. San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts hosts each
gross mismanagement under Republican watch.
We met Kim-Yen Huynh, a true mover shaker in year in front of the county administration building along
On foreign policy, Bush left the international community offended
both the Vietnamese and mainstream communities of San Diego’s Embarcadero.
and unwilling to assist America in basic statecraft. This bore substan-
Orange County. A vice president of the First Vietnamese May was chosen because it marked the anniversary
tial costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, not only in lives lost and money
American Bank – the first totally owned Vietnamese of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
spent, but the reputational damage done.
bank in the country – she was the first woman to serve Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese
On civil rights, Bush abrogated the rules safeguarding human
as president of the Orange County’s Vietnamese- immigrants, the largest group from Asia who, until that
rights, both at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. On education, Bush left
American Chamber of Commerce and founder/president time, had migrated here.
schools fighting for dollars and students learning test-based survival.
of the Asian Business Women’s Association of Orange The list of Asian-American firsts is long and
The pressure to perform forced states to skew numbers and standards
County. Her key to success – reaching out beyond her includes a senator (Hiram Fong); federal judge (Herbert
and schools to close, leaving many children behind.
own ethnic community to embrace both Asian and Choy); female judge (our own Lillian Lim); ambassador
On energy, Bush left the world to warm with no plan for lowering
mainstream. (Julia Chang Bloch); Presidential Cabinet member
carbon emissions. Petrol-politics put America at greater odds with the
Recently, she invited us to meet some of the success (Norman Mineta); female aviator (Katherine Sui Fun
stories in her own Vietnamese community – jewelers, Cheung); astronaut (Ellison Onizuka); AIDS researcher
On health, Bush left millions of children uninsured and biased the
real estate professionals, owners of a beauty college – (Flossie Wong-Staal of San Diego); network news
insurance industry over affordable healthcare. That over seven million
and our luncheon companions, her boss, Dr. Hieu Tri reporter (Connie Chung) and network sitcom star (Pat
Americans became uninsured in the first seven years of Bush’s presi-
Nguyen, founder and director of her bank; and Tara and Morita).
dency indicates how poorly the Republicans prioritized our most vul-
Hai Tran, husband and wife founders of the largest They are just a few of the firsts, which include enter-
Vietnamese satellite network in the U.S. tainers, scientists, educators, artists, musicians and rep-
Bush’s last 100 days made for a seemingly insurmountable 100
Kim was working near the U.S. Embassy when she resentatives of many other fields.
days for Obama. But surmount he did, in concert with Congress.
learned of the approaching North Vietnamese in 1975. Add to that list our luncheon companions, all first
Much like FDR courted Congress to coalesce members around critical
She was able to be among the few to board an outbound among others in their respective endeavors.
legislation, so, too, did Obama. The payoffs are evident. On finances,
flight from Saigon right before the fall. For seven years, our pages have been filled with
we are cleaning up Wall Street through rigorous stress testing and
Dr. Nguyen, meanwhile, was stranded in Germany, Asian Pacific Islander contributions to our community.
reinvested dollars into revenue-generating infrastructure.
where he was going to school, unable to return to his In many ways, we have become a historical chronicler
On foreign policy, the 77-Member Congressional Progressive
country. Within weeks, Hai Tran became part of the first of Asian achievement in Southern California and else-
Caucus is working with the President to ensure the handling of
wave of “boat people,” escaping to Malaysia, where he where in the state.
Afghanistan and Cuba is constructive, so that we restore our reputa-
lived before being allowed to emigrate to the U.S. We are the only ones to undertake this task.
tion with allies and transform relations with adversaries.
Now they are all part of the largest Vietnamese com- In a way, we suppose, you can add ASIA to that list.
On education, our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prior-
itizes meaningful reforms, equitable funding schemes, teacher train-
ing, school repair, and student-centered learning. Working with the
President, I will take this agenda further with my legislation, H.R.
1758, which calls for a national dialogue on educational opportunity
and equity. On energy, Reps. Waxman, Markey, and I, and others, are
committed to climate legislation passing Congress this year, comple-
menting the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that green-
house gas pollution is a serious problem requiring action.
To understand these 100 days without a sufficient retrospective on
the detrimental residue left in the last 100 days or without sufficient
respect for returns only visible within the next 100 days, neglects the
impact of the past and the potential in the future. Much like the health
of a plant is judged not solely by its present appearance but by the
ground on which it grew and the weather in which it will grow, so too
must our performance be understood by the past, present and future
As youngsters deliver a rousing rendition of folk dances from China, residents of San Diego, including Sharon and Joe Garula and
(Rep. Michael Honda is the chairman of the Congressional Asian
their 3-year-old granddaughter, Gianna, enjoy the performance. “Cultural appreciation is what makes us all understand each
Pacific American Caucus) other better,” said Sharon Garula. Photos by Rosalynn Carmen
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