Look­ing for Asian-Ame­rian world lead­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By MAY ZHOU in Houston mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

In­ter­na­tional Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion (ILF) founder and CEO Chiling Tong vis­ited Houston re­cently to en­cour­age lo­cal chap­ter ad­vi­sors and pro­mote ILF’s on-go­ing mis­sion, call­ing on lo­cal youth to get in­volved in its var­i­ous lead­er­ship train­ing pro­grams.

With help from ILF na­tional and Houston ad­vi­sor Grace Song, Tong first made a spe­cial trip to Houston’s thriv­ing sub­urb The Wood­lands. “It’s im­por­tant for our mis­sion to de­velop in big cities, but it’s also im­por­tant for us to un­der­stand the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties in sur­round­ing sub­urbs,” Tong said.

ILF Houston chap­ter chair­woman Lee­shan Bir­ney hosted an event at her of­fice to pro­mote the foun­da­tion. Con­gress­woman Grace Meng of New York and Con­gress­man Al Green of Texas also showed up to lend their sup­port to ILF’s mis­sion of train­ing Asian-Amer­i­can lead­ers of the next gen­er­a­tion.

“The busi­ness rev­enue of Asian com­mu­ni­ties in the US equals the to­tal rev­enue of His­panic-Amer­i­can, AfricanAmer­i­can and Na­tive-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties com­bined,” Tong said. “We are not strong in num­bers but we are strong in eco­nomic power.”

Tong pointed out that de­vel­op­ing eco­nomic power was the cor­rect first step for Asian im­mi­grants to make, but it was now time to take the next step for­ward and “make our voices heard”.

“If we cal­cu­late by pop­u­la­tion ra­tio, there should be 26 Asian-Amer­i­can con­gress­men, but in re­al­ity there are only 13 of us, and only 2 are Chi­nese Amer­i­cans,” Tong said. “We have a long way to go and we need to get more young peo­ple in­volved.

“We are not en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one to en­ter pol­i­tics,” she added. “But no mat­ter what pro­fes­sion young peo­ple choose to en­ter, it’s im­por­tant for them to un­der­stand how the gov­ern­ment works and how to fight for their rights.”

Tong pointed out that the Chi­nese cus­tom of “sav­ing face” leads many to avoid con­fronta­tion, to in­stead re­main quiet and po­lite. “Fac­ing and deal­ing with con­fronta­tion is an im­por­tant as­pect of lead­er­ship,” she said.

“We need to be able to tell oth­ers what we want and fight for it. If we keep quiet, there will be more such in­ci­dents as ‘killing all Chi­nese’ (re­fer­ring to the Jimmy Kim­mel show con­tro­versy). Our next gen­er­a­tion must get in­volved in pol­i­tics.”

Founded 14 years ago, the ILF now has 15 chap­ters na­tion­wide and has trained thou­sands of Asian col­lege stu­dents through pro­grams such as civic fel­low­ship, young am­bas­sadors and var­i­ous con­fer­ences.

With funds con­trib­uted by ad­vi­sors, it pro­vides in­tern­ships for col­lege stu­dents to ob­serve and learn gov­ern­men­tal op­er­a­tions up close in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

Tong en­cour­ages Tex­anAsian col­lege stu­dents to ap­ply for the 2014 sum­mer pro­gram by go­ing to ileader.org, adding that the ap­pli­ca­tion dead­line had been ex­tended to Feb 15.

Tong said the ILF has al­ready started to see the fruits of its ef­forts. “A young man named Alex Wu is start­ing to work at the White House this year,” she said.

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