China / Across America

Asian Americans say Obama had impact on them

By Paul Welitzkin in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-01-19 11:23

From signing an executive order to restore a White House initiative and a presidential advisory panel on Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans, to appointing a record number of Asian Americans as federal judges and including those of Asian descent as members of his cabinet, President Barack Obama has had a major impact on the US Asian community, according to some Asian Americans.

"Because he was born and raised in Hawaii, the only Asian and Pacific Islander majority state in the union, and has an Indonesian stepfather and step-siblings, he understands this community in more nuanced ways than other past presidents," said James Lai, professor of political science at Santa Clara University in California.

"On many occasions, President Obama has said that when he's among the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, he was among family. To many AAPIs, he is family - he grew up in Hawaii where his Asian American sister and her husband still live and where his family visits often," said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Obama, who will leave office on Friday after serving eight years as president, selected Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington state, to serve as secretary of the US Commerce Department in 2009. Later, Locke was nominated as ambassador to China, the first Chinese American to serve in that post.

Physicist Steven Chu headed the US Department of Energy from 2009 to 2013.

Obama not only opened up the federal government for Asian Americans, he granted unprecedented access to the White House to the Asian-American community, said Floyd Mori, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

"Since day one, there has been an AAPI liaison in the White House," said Mori. "The several who have had that position have been available and open to meet and participate in AAPI issues and programs. As such, many of the AAPI leaders throughout the nation have had the opportunity to become part of implementing new and enhancing old programs for the AAPI population."

"President Obama also issued an executive order on diversity and inclusion within the federal government as related to the federal workforce and it had a big impact on Asian Americans who work for the federal government," said Yang Chen, executive director of the Asian American Bar Association in New York.

However, Chen said there were also some negative developments during the Obama years "such as the failed prosecutions of two Chinese-American scientists, one a professor and the other a federal employee, which illustrated how the fear of China affected Chinese Americans."

Asian Americans say Obama had impact on them

US President Barack Obama waves as he departs the briefing room at the conclusion of his final press conference at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

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