Interview conducted by Nancy Yan, Fall 2010 Intern
How do you think being Asian American has had an impact on your life and or your decision to run for office?
Well, being Asian American has affected my life in the sense that I bring to my life different depths of life experiences. I lived in other countries then I immigrated to the United States. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and lived my early childhood years there. Then I lived in the Netherlands as a political refugee because Indonesia was a Dutch colony at one time so I lived there for another 5 some years and then I arrived in the United States January of 1960 at the age of 11. So most of my life has been lived in the United States but the simple fact is that as an Asian American, you are considered an Asian American simply because of your principal features so your experience is somewhat different than others who are from the majority culture. Whether it had an influence on me in making the decision to run for the state office, I think so, I think what it had me do is recognize that as Asian Americans, we must become more actively involved in the community whether it’s political, or non-profit, or charity type of thing. We must be more visible and more contributing to the richness of the community that we live in. So I have been doing that in all my years living in Grand Rapids. I have been actively involved in the business community, I’ve been actively involved in civic affairs, in charity work, and it was a natural progression for me to take a look at the political arena as the next step of being able to contribute and participate in the life of the community.
If you were elected, what are some of the top issues you would like to address?
The issues I would like to address is not so much an Asian American issue, it’s a people issue. I think what I would like to address as a small business owner are economic development issues especially as they pertain to the core urban centers of our cities. My district I am running for includes the Grand Rapids urban core center of the city, so I have always been concerned about the economic development, especially in those areas. I think economic development that can be beneficial for all of us and create more businesses in those particular communities will help us a great deal because more people can get jobs and more jobs can create more revenues and give people hope and give people an opportunity to purchase products which creates again revenues so economic development will be my main focus for my participation in Lansing.
What is the top issue you think is facing the Asian American community?
For the Asian American community, I think that we have the opportunity to contribute a great deal. We have many talents, we have many skills, and we just need to step up and say here we are and here I am and am willing to participate in the process with the communities that we live in. The other part of it is that I think the Asian American community will have to be participating in the discussion about immigration and how the conversation on immigration can positively or negatively impact our presence in our communities.
What does the Republican Party stand for in your eyes?
I am part of the Republican Party because of President Gerald R. Ford who I believe is not a politician, he’s a statesman. He was willing to have conversations with anyone and everyone irrespective of their party affiliation. He was willing to do what was needed to be done and what was right to be done for everyone, not just Republicans or Democrats. I think that for me, that’s the value that I hold as a Republican candidate. I am more concerned with what is going to be the impact of my decisions on everyone and not just the party affiliations. I look at the wellbeing of the whole district that I represent and the whole state I live in.
How did you come to become involved in the party?
I’ve never been deeply involved with the party. I’m really a political novice in that sense. Again my party affiliation decision again was based on a situation that occurred in our family’s lives in the 1960s where at that time Representative Gerald Ford stepped in to address a discrimination issue that my father was experiencing and he stepped in because no one else wanted to step in to address it in Grand Rapids. When friends of my father went to Gerald Ford and said this is wrong and something needs to be done, he listened to the situation and said this is wrong and he stepped in. So my party affiliation is really a sense of loyalty to what President Ford did on behalf of my family. I have never really been actively involved or politically involved. I’ve always been actively involved in serving the community in other ways, not so much in a political way, so this is really a new avenue for me to serve and contribute to the people of the 75th district.
What would you like to say to the Asian American community to encourage them to get out and vote?
We, as a group of people, I think, so thinking for myself, I have been very blessed and for given a great deal by this wonderful country so we must return and show our appreciation for the things we have received in this country by actively participating in the voting process. Then I would like to encourage those who have the time, the energy, and the commitment and the passion to go beyond the voting process and actively participate by the actual running for the political offices. I think it is very important for the Asian Americans population to become more visible and more actively involved in the public policies of our cities, of our state, of our nation because we do have something to contribute and we have a perspective that is needed to be heard to enrich everyone, not just for ourselves, but to enrich everyone and we can’t do that if we continue to stay quietly and silently on the sidelines. We have to become involved and actively involved.
Stay tuned for more Asian American candidate interviews, coming soon!
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