The Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Student Association (HRCSA) hosted its first ever Chinese American Intercollegiate Conference over Columbus Day weekend, after almost two years of planning.
Conceived as a way to unify and educate students on the issues facing Chinese Americans today, the conference, titled "Rising Above the Myths: Defining the Chinese American Destiny," featured speeches by prominent Chinese-Americans, presentations, discussion groups and related cultural events.
"We felt it was important to fill that gap [of a Chinese-American conference], since certain issues are more applicable to a Chinese-American conference than an Asian-American conference," said Andrew G.W. Chung '99, co-president of HRCSA and conference chair.
About 130 students from other colleges attended the conference, which attempted to ensure that students from "schools that might not have the resources or the core of Asian Americans to put this together could have this experience," said HRCSA Co-President Harrison W. Lin '99.
"We wanted to inspire our delegates to return to their respective institutions with the intent and ability to educate and empower members of their community," Chung said.
Speakers emphasized the importance of having more Chinese Americans in leadership positions.
"In order to have greater assimilation of Chinese-Americans in this country, more leadership is needed--not to take over the country, but to be a greater part of the system," said Ronald S.W. Lew, a United States district judge of the Central District of California and a keynote speaker.
"We're here speaking to one of the premier universities in the nation, where it is hoped that [Chinese-American] leadership will evolve," he said.
In another speech, titled "Quest for Political Voice," the former Lieutenant Governor of Delaware S.B. (Shien-Bai) Woo proposed a plan to give the Chinese-American community more substantive political power.
In particular, Woo said he thought Chinese Americans needed to unify their support behind one candidate per election. Fifty percent of Chinese-Americans tend to vote for a candidate in one party while the other half votes for a candidate in the other party.
Thus, their votes cancel each other out and prevent the Chinese-American constituency from being politically powerful, Woo said
"Chinese Americans are still perceived as foreigners, not American citizens, and not due all the rights of American citizens," said Daphne Kwok, executive director of the Organization of Chinese-Americans.
She said it is easier for sub-ethnic groups such as Chinese Americans to unify because of their common background and that the process should start on this level before attempting to unite the larger Asian American and then the American community.
Lew, Woo and Ida K. Chen, judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, discussed how they were able to succeed in politics, a field that traditionally has not attracted a great deal of Chinese-American involvement.
For example, Chen said she benefited from the support of Lew and Woo, Chinese Americans who were already established in the political field.
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