Chi­nese Amer­i­cans back exec’s re­elec­tion

DC area county leader has been strong sup­porter of mi­nor­ity groups

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By CAI CHUN­Y­ING in Rockville, Mary­land charlenecai@chi­nadai­

Ike Leggett, county ex­ec­u­tive of Mont­gomery County, Mary­land, did not ex­pect to see so many Chi­nese Amer­i­cans show up on a wet and cold day over New Year’s weekend to of­fer their sup­port for his re­elec­tion.

More than 80 in­di­vid­u­als from the greater Wash­ing­ton DC Chi­nese com­mu­nity at­tended and to­gether con­trib­uted more than $13,000 to his cam­paign.

The guests in­cluded com­mu­nity lead­ers such as the pres­i­dent of Co­or­di­na­tion Coun­cils of Chi­nese Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tions, the head of Chi­nese Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, and the founder of Hope Chi­nese School. Some even trav­eled from Vir­ginia to sup­port an of­fi­cial out­side their home state.

“Look around the room,” said the event or­ga­nizer Lily Qi, di­rec­tor of spe­cial projects at the Of­fices of County Ex­ec­u­tive. “This is ba­si­cally a Who’s Who of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity here.”

Qi, a Shang­hai na­tive, said she had her doubts while plan­ning the event be­cause tra­di­tion­ally Chi­nese Amer­i­cans tend to stay away from po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.

“Most of us came from China where the gov­ern­ment plays a rather de­ci­sive role, so we usu­ally do not have the con­scious­ness of po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. And Chi­nese cul­ture also does not em­pha­size out­reach and ad­vo­cacy,” Qi ex­plained to China Daily.

“But we do not have to wait for our next gen­er­a­tion to grow


we do not have to wait for our next gen­er­a­tion to grow up and par­tic­i­pate. We are far more ed­u­cated and ca­pa­ble of great as­sim­i­la­tion. We need to get more in­volved in county af­fairs and have our own voices in main­stream po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing.” LILY QI DI­REC­TOR OF SPE­CIAL PROJECTS AT THE OF­FICES OF COUNTY EX­EC­U­TIVE

up and par­tic­i­pate. We are far more ed­u­cated and ca­pa­ble of great as­sim­i­la­tion. We need to get more in­volved in county af­fairs and have our own voices in main­stream po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing,” said Qi, who was di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs for the Wash­ing­ton DC gov­ern­ment’s Depart­ment of Insurance, Se­cu­ri­ties & Bank­ing be­fore join­ing the county gov­ern­ment.

The fund-raiser, Leggett told China Daily, was the largest from the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity he had ever seen.

Many came to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Leggett’s sup­port of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans dur­ing his eight years in of­fice. Leggett was re­cently elected pres­i­dent of County Ex­ec­u­tives of Amer­ica.

“As a part­ner, Leggett is one of the best county ex­ec­u­tives in the coun­try. This county has been very ag­gres­sive and ad­van­ta­geous to most of us mi­nori­ties,” said Ed­ward Chow, Mary­land’s sec­re­tary of vet­eran af­fairs, who is sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese in an im­mi­grant fam­ily.

Stan Tsai, chair­man of the Chi­nese Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Center, who was born and raised in Tai­wan, also at­tended the event. “We have many com­mu­nity events and Mr Leggett is of­ten there to lis­ten to us and un­der­stand us. He is con­cerned about our is­sues,” Tsai said.

About 15 per­cent of Mont­gomery County’s one mil­lion res­i­dents are Asian Amer­i­cans, of which a third are Chi­nese, the largest group. The greater Wash­ing­ton area is ranked 7th in the na­tion in size of Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion.

“We have ar­rived as a com­mu­nity in many ways,” Qi said. “It is hard to over­state the im­por­tance of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in this area.”

Hans Riemer, a county coun­cil­man who at­tended the event, told China Daily, “The Chi­nese com­mu­nity is a huge as­pect of what Mont­gomery County is all about. Our county is a knowl­edge-, sci­ence-based eco­nomic en­gine. A lot of the work­force is peo­ple from China.”

Ac­cord­ing to the US Cen­sus, Mont­gomery County is one of the most af­flu­ent coun­ties in the na­tion with a top-notch pub­lic school sys­tem and the high­est per­cent­age of res­i­dents who hold post-grad­u­ate de­grees.

Many of the Chi­nese lead­ers at­tend­ing the Sun­day event work for na­tional re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Riemer said the Chi­nese Amer­i­can com­mu­nity should do more to have their con­tri­bu­tion fully rec­og­nized.

“It is not as well seen or un­der­stood just how large the con­tri­bu­tion of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans is, so it is im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to be ac­tive and in­volved,” said Riemer. “It’s good to see the com­mu­nity be­come more or­ga­nized and able to fo­cus on elect­ing cer­tain can­di­dates and achieve its po­lit­i­cal clout.”

Riemer took part in a 10-day, four-city, 86-per­son del­e­ga­tion visit to China, led by Leggett in Septem­ber of last year. The visit brought a $1.4 mil­lion in­vest­ment to Mont­gomery County to fa­cil­i­tate ef­fec­tive com­mer­cial­iza­tion of bio­med­i­cal re­search, some­thing the county is known for.

The trip also es­tab­lished the county’s “sis­ter” re­la­tion­ship with Xi’an, a pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal and eco­nomic hub in western China. Most of the ar­range­ments and events in China were or­ches­trated by the Chi­nese com­mu­nity lead­ers in Leggett’s county.

That was the fourth time Leggett vis­ited China. His first visit was in 1980 when he was a White House fel­low and a pro­fes­sor of Law at Howard Univer­sity Law School, a post he held un­til be­com­ing county ex­ec­u­tive in 2006.

“One third of our res­i­dents were not born in the US. We have peo­ple from all over the world and we get along with each other here. We treat peo­ple with dig­nity and re­spect, so we can be a model for the en­tire world. That is my ob­jec­tive. I want you to be part of that. We must ac­com­plish this to­gether,” Leggett said, shar­ing his vi­sion at the end of the event.

And he has even higher hopes for Chi­nese Amer­i­cans.

“Chi­nese Amer­i­cans as a com­mu­nity have in­deed ar­rived in many ways, but my view is it has not fully ar­rived un­til you see not Leggett but Chi­nese Amer­i­cans stand­ing in lead­er­ship po­si­tions in front you,” he said.


Ike Leggett, county ex­ec­u­tive of Mont­gomery County, Mary­land, de­liv­ers a speech at a fund-rais­ing event or­ga­nized by the Chi­nese Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity in the greater Wash­ing­ton area for his re­elec­tion, with Lily Qi, di­rec­tor of spe­cial projects with the county gov­ern­ment, and Ed­ward Chow (sit­ting right), state’s sec­re­tary of vet­eran af­fairs, and other Chi­nese Amer­i­can com­mu­nity lead­ers look­ing on.

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