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Government And Politics - Making An Impact

Ranjani Saigal

Asian Women’s Connection (AWC) a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing preeminent network of professional Asian women who inspire one another to greater levels of professional and personal growth hosted a panel discussion to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, MA.

The panel featured, Lisa Wong, Mayor of Fitchburg, Grace H. Lee, First Deputy Treasurer and General Counsel for the Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill and Alona Abalos, Director of Corporate Programs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts & Board Member of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus who spoke about a career in public service. The event was sponsored by Burns and Levinson LLP, Legal Counsel and Business Advisors.

“The government and political process are keys to ensuring that unique concerns and needs among diverse Asian American communities are addressed” says Janet Chien who served as the moderator for the event. Each member of the panel used their personal journeys to describe the impact they have on transforming lives through public service and ensuring that the Asian American community has its presence felt at governing bodies.
Lisa Wong, the daughter of Chirstiana and Daniel Wong,  owners of Royal East restaurant in Cambridge described herself as a typical Asian American over achiever  who graduated with a dual B.A in economics in 2 years from BU and later got a masters in economics. She was doing human rights work in Australia when  a family issue brought her back to New England. She joined the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority and as its director brought about radical changes. Later she decided to run for Mayor and won. “The reason I succeeded was that I was able to center my campaign around issues rather than the color of skin and people really liked my ideas and elected me” says Wong.

Grace Lee, a lawyer by training grew up in Los Angeles. “ Growing up in California as a Korean American I never felt like a minority until the LA riots hit. The government decided that it was too expensive to protect the Korean community. I heard mothers telling their young sons to pick up a gun and go defend the Korean neighborhood in LA for the government did nothing. It changed my life forever”. Lee is the force behind the creation of the Asian American Commission in Massachusetts. “In Massachusetts Asian Americans are definitely a minority. Unfortunately we are treated as different minority with no resources allocated to address our needs. I try to do my best to ensure that the Asian American community gets a hearing at every table.”

Alona Abalos  grew up in Hawaii. She came to New England to attend school. Later she worked for the republican Senate Minority leader in Massachusetts. “Career in public service does have its challenges. It requires sacrifice of time and often the jobs do not pay well. But there is huge opportunities to make a difference” said Abalos

The panel suggested the following points for involvement in public service
1. Pick a cause you are passionate about.
2. Get involved by contributing your talent.
3. If you do not have time but you do have money you can contribute to the causes you care about.

Inspiring conversations and great food made this a very special evening for the women who attended. To learn more about the Asian Women’s Connection and to become a part of this group please
check out their website at http://www.awconnect.org/

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