Are we better off than four years ago? Part 2

Yes, Asian Americans are being tapped for their talent and not just their wallets.

President Obama has had the most diverse Cabinet and White House staff of any President.  In fact less than half of his cabinet is white and male.  He appointed a record three Asian Americans to his cabinet.

In Presidential elections, there is a lot of focus on the candidate himself.  As important is who he hires to lead the many agencies that serve the American public.  This President is interested in the talent in our community and elevating them to positions where they can make a difference. 

The appointment of Gary Locke to Secretary of Commerce ensured a successful census 2010 count of Asian Americans and other historically undercounted communities.  He is now serving as Ambassador to China, one of our most important and complicated relationships in the global economy.

Eric Shinseki has fought to bring order and renewed energy to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency that was long neglected under President Bush even as the launching of two wars further strained an already underfunded agency.

I thought it especially noteworthy that he named Steven Chu, a Chinese American scientist as his Secretary of Energy.  While President Obama no doubt focused on the obvious qualifications of this articulate Nobel prize- winning spokesperson on energy, that act helped to dispel the lingering loyalty questions about Chinese American scientists and engineers raised by the painful prosecution of Dr. Wen Ho Lee.   It was also an important signal to the scientific community who had been under siege by the Bush Administration appointees who tended to push religion over science.

The diversity does not stop at the cabinet level.  There are also an historic number of Asian Americans in senior posts in the White House.  Tina Tchen was in charge of the Office of Public Engagement and now is chief of staff to the First Lady.  Chris Lu is Cabinet Secretary and Pete Rouse who is the first Asian American to serve as White House Chief of Staff.

Nor does it stop at the White House.  Since the 2008 election, the White House Office of Personnel has been regularly meeting with Asian American leaders working to help identify and recruit the best and the brightest to serve their country and to ensure that federal agencies, boards and commissions reflect a diverse range of expertise and experiences.  As a result, Asian Americans are well represented throughout the federal government.  For example, former Dean of Yale Law School Harold Koh is the top legal adviser to Hilary Clinton in the State Department.  A well- known human rights advocate, he has played an important role in working with Secretary Clinton and President Obama to restore the standing of the U.S. in the world – one that was heavily damaged under the Bush Administration.

Not only is this about employment opportunity for individual Asian Americans and other minorities, but it is also about having people at agencies who are sensitive to the needs of minority and immigrant communities in the room where decisions are being made about resource allocation and policy decisions.