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Asian-American 'Agenda' Debated

IOP Panelists Say Ethnic Diversity Complicates Definition

By Flora Tartakovsky

Although an Asian-American agenda exists, it is yet to be defined, panelists at an Institute of Politics forum said last night.

Addressing an audience of about 70 people, Western States Director of the Corporation for National Service Michael Woo said that "there is an Asian-American agenda, but nobody can agree on what it is."

"Diversity among Asian-Americans makes it difficult to agree on what the agenda is," said Woo, who ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Los Angeles in 1993.

Panelists highlighted the need to find common ground among Asian- American ethnic groups and greater representation in government as pressing issues.

"We lack the political influence and we lack the representation," said General Council to the United States House of Representatives Cheryl Lau.

However, Woo said that bringing the Asian-American community together is difficult.

"Asian-Americans are divided and therefore easily conquered," he said.

But Lau maintained that issues confronting Asian-Americans could create unity. "Subjects like immigration would unite Asian-American groups," he said.

One panelist cited educating Asian-Americans as a possible solution to the problem of political under-representation.

"We have to educate Asian to vote...Hopefully we can elect Asian-American candidates for the future," said chairperson of the Boston Chinatown and South Cove Neighborhood Council Jason Chung. Chung is also the chair of the Chinatown voting education program.

At the closing of the panel discussion, Lau told the audience that Asian-Americans must have a sense of pride in themselves before they can hope to fulfill any agenda.

"Be proud of what you are," she said. "Just stick to your convictions and [the majority] will respect you for that."

Affirmative action and the much debated California Proposition 187--a proposal to deny federal services to illegal aliens--were also discussed as concerns which Asian-American will confront in the future.

The event was co-sponsored by the Harvard Asian-American Association and the Institue of Politics' Student Advisory Committee. The discussion was presented in conjunction with Harvard's Asian-American cultural month.

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