As part of celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, AARP New York asked elected officials from around the state to share their stories about why they decided to run for office, why it’s important to celebrate AAPI Month, and what New Yorkers age 50-plus can do to get involved in local and state public policy. The legislators and their responses are below.
1. Congresswoman Grace Meng: 6th District
When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer. I wound up going to law school, but eventually considered working for a government agency, elected official or a nonprofit organization. However, I never thought about running for office. But that changed after my father was elected to the New York State Legislature. After he retired from the State Assembly, I thought that the person who succeeded him was not doing a good job representing our community. I thought that I could do it better. So, I run against her and I won.
The heritage, history and culture of Asian Americans is important to commemorate, preserve and pass on to future generations. It is also important to highlight our culture so that more people in our country realize that our stories are just as American as everyone else’s. Each May, we celebrate the heritage and accomplishments of the Asian American community during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. But these celebrations should not be contained to one month out of the year. For example, Lunar New Year, which the Asian American community celebrated in February, is a most significant time for many Asian Americans. It is a time when my family and I gather with loved ones to celebrate the holiday, enjoy traditional foods and participate in activities. This includes teaching my kids language and foods like making dumplings.
It is important for all Americans to speak up and make their voices heard in important policy decisions. For Asian American seniors, there are many important subjects to tackle, from healthcare to quality of life issues. The Asian American community has made great strides in impacting public policy but it must stay active and involved for this progress to continue. People can express their views in a number of ways such as by contacting their elected officials to let them know about the issues concerning them. They can get involved in their community and speak out on the issues. They can serve on the local community board, join the area civic group or become active in their neighborhood. Often times, change and influencing public policy begins on the local level by folks wanting to address a problem in their backyards.
2. Senator John C. Liu: 11th Senate District
I didn’t know it at the time, but I suppose I must’ve been destined for public service when my family immigrated to America, and my father named myself and my brothers after the Kennedy brothers - John, Robert and Edward. When I was older, I volunteered on my local community board and served as the president of my neighborhood civic association. When the local City Council representative referred to Asians as rude merchants and criminal smugglers, I knew the time had come to fully commit to public service. This calling to stand up to those who try to marginalize communities has continued throughout my career.
No matter your background, race, or creed, learning about our heritage helps us to understand who we are and where we came from by connecting us to our roots. New Yorkers, and especially Queens, share a common love and appreciation of our city’s patchwork of cultures. This is critically important for the evolution of America because, to play on the phrase, “If you can make it work here, you can make it work anywhere.”
Our democracy is stronger when we have a broad representation of ideas and opinions from every generation. The best way for anyone to make a difference in their community is by voting, whether by absentee ballot or in person. The state recently made several reforms to make it easier for older Americans to vote by absentee ballot and by early voting, so everyone should exercise their right to vote!
To learn what else AARPNY is doing in your community, connect with us on our social media channels: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn
Tuesday, Jul 19, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Thursday, Jul 21, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time
Tuesday, Jul 5, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time
JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR