(From left) Nicole Gaddie, Jeff Shieh, JR Kuo and Allen Tang in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. Photo courtesy of Nicole Gaddie

By Nicole Gaddie

In 1984, a group of JACL and OCA (formerly Organization of Chinese Americans) community leaders, each with varied historical and generational backgrounds, convened in the nation’s capital to enter the national policy-making arena.

More than 30 years later, the JACL and the OCA returned to Washington, D.C., for a leadership summit, discovering and developing what it means to advocate in a divided society.

Shortly after their arrival,  summit attendees participated and traveled to OCA National headquarters, where they met with Norman Mineta. His accolades stretch the gamut from serving as mayor of San Jose and representing the 13th and 15th districts of California to serving as U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Commerce under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

Although Mineta’s list of accomplishments is long, his belief of individual pride and flourishing were most memorable. “Be proud of who you are,” said Mineta as he spoke about being interned at Heart Mountain during WWII.

Over the course of three days, summit participants met individuals from a variety of AAPI and governmental organizations.

Education was one of the more notable topics during meetings with policy makers and advocates. The All Students Count Act was introduced by Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) in 2014. The bill calls on federal government to be more specific and segmented about race, gender and disabilities of students in grades K-12.

Rep. Honda’s bill could drastically improve education. White House briefings, panel discussions and a brief visit with other senators were part of the program.

Nicole Gaddie is the National Youth Council Chair of the JACL