President Barack Obama zipped a few blocks from the White House to the Ritz Carlton May 8 to address the 18th Annual Gala for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. It was a day after the Ritz hosted the likes of Prince Harry and Ban Ki-moon for the Atlantic Council’s big dinner. Obama entered the ballroom which proved campaign-ready.
With shouts of “aloha” and “mahalo,” the president spoke before an enthusiastic and loud crowd in the standing-room-only hall. “Four more years! Four more years!” the crowd yelled to Obama, who responded, “Thank you. Everybody, please, please, have a seat. Have a seat. You’re making me blush.”
Citing his own life story, Obama said, “Now, I am thrilled to be here tonight because all of you hold a special place in my heart. When I think about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I think about my family — my sister, Maya; my brother-in-law, Konrad . . . My nieces Suhaila and Savita. I think about all the folks I grew up with in Honolulu, as part of the Hawaiian ohana. I think about the years I spent in Indonesia. So for me, coming here feels a little bit like home. This is a community that helped to make me who I am today. It’s a community that helped make America the country that it is today. So your heritage spans the world. But what unites everyone is that in all of your families you have stories of perseverance that are uniquely American.”
After Obama left and darted back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one of APAICS’s leader, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) said that the president was not born with “silver chopsticks” or “silver rice bowl,” for that matter. Honda then asked the group, “Are you ready for the next four years?”
Besides political and congressional leaders, such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi or Norman Mineta, the 1,000-plus crowd included Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan, actress Grace Park and Miss D.C. Ashley Boalch.
The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) is a national non-partisan, non-profit organization that is “dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office.” According to the 2010 Census, Asian Americans comprise the fastest-growing group in the U.S. and are now getting more attention from politicians for their votes.