Dawn Lin: po­lit­i­cally ac­tive in grass­roots

Be­ing a suc­cess­ful lawyer and work­ing sin­gle mother was not enough, es­pe­cially when there were so many good causes to get be­hind and help drive for­ward

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

When Con­gress­man Al Green of Texas used his five min­utes of floor time on Capi­tol Hill in May to rec­og­nize distin­guished Asian- Amer­i­can visi­tors from Texas, he called Dawn Lin the “mother of the Con­fu­cius Res­o­lu­tion”.

Green was re­fer­ring to Lin ini­ti­at­ing HR 784, in which “the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives hon­ors the 2,560 th an­niver­sary of the birth of Con­fu­cius and rec­og­nizes his in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to phi­los­o­phy and so­cial and po­lit­i­cal thought” in 2009.

Lin, an im­mi­grant from Tai­wan, came to the United States in 1980 on a stu­dent visa.

“My par­ents were not ed­u­cated peo­ple. In fact, I am the only one in my fam­ily with a col­lege de­gree,” said Lin, now the owner of the law firm Dawn Lin & As­so­ci­ates housed in the tallest build­ing in Hous­ton’s Chi­na­town, where she em­ploys eight staff mem­bers.

She started as a com­puter ma­jor but didn’t com­plete the pro­gram due to a lack of funds. She then got mar­ried and had a baby in 1984. The mar­riage didn’t last, and soon Lin found her­self as a work­ing sin­gle mother.

When her daugh­ter grew older, Lin de­cided to im­prove her pro­fes­sional life. “I only had a ju­nior col­lege de­gree. I spent three years to do make-up cour­ses while work­ing,” Then, she spent another three years get­ting her law de­gree in 1999 at the Thur­good Mar­shall School of Law and passed the bar right af­ter.

In 2000, she formed her law firm and and set up her of­fice at the newly com­pleted Hong Kong City Mall. She was han­dling ev­ery­thing from di­vorce and bank­ruptcy to traf­fic tick­ets with a fo­cus on immigration and cor­po­rate law.

“I chose Mother’s Day to open my of­fice,” she said. “My mother was so proud that she took a stack of news­pa­pers re­port­ing the open­ing to dis­trib­ute at the mar­ket. She took some back to Tai­wan also,” said Lin, whose story was told in the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle in 2002.

A few years later, Lin bought a busi­ness af­fil­i­ated with Fi­delity Na­tional Ti­tle In­sur­ance: “I took it over at the be­gin­ning of 2008, and it turned out to be very bad tim­ing be­cause the fi­nan­cial cri­sis soon hap­pened in the same year and drove real es­tate to the ground,” re­called Lin.

How­ever, Lin, al­ways ac­tive in com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and the po­lit­i­cal process, had built a net­work that sud­denly be­came an as­set. It helped her not only weather the storm but also thrive in busi­ness.

Lin has al­ways en­joyed singing and danc­ing. She joked that while in school she sang more than her class­mate Tsai Chin, who later be­came a fa­mous singer. Her civic in­volve­ment started with singing and dance per­for­mances at var­i­ous com­mu­nity events in the early 1980s. Through­out the years, she also acted as master of cer­e­mony on many oc­ca­sions, such as the Na­tional Day Cel­e­bra­tion of China.

Lin’s po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment started in the early 1990s. First she helped Es­ther Yao run for a con­gres­sional seat in 1991. Yao lost the elec­tion, and went on to cre­ate the Foun­da­tion for Na­tional Po­lit­i­cal Lead­er­ship in Washington two years later. Lin be­came pres­i­dent of the Hous­ton chap­ter.

The chap­ter was ac­tive for many years: “We fo­cused on train­ing the next gen­er­a­tion to be more in­volved in the pol­i­tics. We trained them how to talk on cam­era, took them to visit the City Hall, meet with the mayor and the po­lice chief.

“We also helped them to do a City Coun­cil mock meet­ing and learn how to pass a bill,” Lin said.

“We took them to Washington to meet to meet with some Congress mem­bers.”

Since help­ing Yao’s cam­paign, Lin has in­volved her­self in var­i­ous elec­tions, from school board trustees, City Coun­cil, mayor, to state and pres­i­den­tial races. She worked as trea­surer for the Asian Repub­li­can Party in 1992 when the GOP na­tional con­ven­tion was held in Hous­ton.

In ad­di­tion , she has al­ways sup­ported ev­ery Chi­nese who ever an­nounced a run for of­fice.

“If you don’ t par­tic­i­pate, your voice will not be heard, and you have no power. Each time when a Chi­nese comes out to run, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to mo­bi­lize peo­ple to get in­volved,” Lin said.

She re­mar­ried in 2003, and be­came more po­lit­i­cally in­volved when she helped Al Green win a con­gres­sional seat in 2004. They be­came friends, and Lin was asked to be his com­mu­nity li­ai­son when Green took of­fice in 2005.

While run­ning her law of­fice, Lin worked as Green’s li­ai­son on and off for a cou­ple of years, help­ing the Asian com­mu­nity to be more in­volved and to be heard. How­ever, “I re­al­ize this part-time po­si­tion has lim­ited me — I can’t en­dorse other can­di­dates in elec­tions any more. I find this re­stric­tion did not suit me at all,” Lin said.

She even­tu­ally quit the po­si­tion so as not to be lim­ited in po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment: “I found out I can do more when not a staff ( mem­ber) in the of­fice of Con­gress­man Green.”

How­ever, she re­mained close to Green and had been in­volved in his two trips to China. “It’s im­por­tant for him to un­der­stand China to do a good job,” she said.

In 2009, as the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute found a home at Texas South­ern Univer­sity in Hous­ton, the lo­cal com­mu­nity started a pro­ject to put a Con­fu­cius statue by lo­cal sculp­tor Willy Wang in Her­man Park.

“I thought this was a great op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote our tra­di­tional cul­ture, and I asked Con­gress­man Green to cre­ate a res­o­lu­tion in the House to rec­og­nize this great Chi­nese philoso­pher,” Lin said.

The ini­tia­tive got a lot of sup­port in the House and passed as HR 784 in Oc­to­ber 2009. It was later also passed in the Se­nate. “It felt won­der­ful when the res­o­lu­tion was passed,” said Lin.

Early this year, Lin be­came the Hous­ton chap­ter pres­i­dent of the AsianAmer­i­can Real Es­tate As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ever a cre­ative mo­bi­lizer, in May, which was AsianAmer­i­can Her­itage Month, Lin, with the help of other com­mu­nity lead­ers, took two bus­loads of mem­bers to Austin to meet Texas state leg­is­la­tors.

“We made a big im­pres­sion. I want them to know that we ex­ist and our voice counts,” Lin said.

MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

Dawn Lin, po­lit­i­cally ac­tive and pro­fes­sion­ally suc­cess­ful, be­lieves po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion is im­por­tant. “If you don’t par­tic­i­pate, your voice will not be heard,” she said.

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