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By  Jon Melegrito

                       Walking A Fine Line

        Unity. It's much easier to talk about it than 
achieving it. 

        No less than Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano chided community leaders at a recent NaFFAA regional conference in Los Angeles for being the only ethnic group in this country who loves to talk about unity. He was particularly critical of leaders who don't practice what they preach. 

        Indeed, practicing what we preach requires not only  making sure  everyone's  invited to the table.  It also means being extremely sensitive to our own diversity as a community. To ignore this is to set back our gains toward unity. 

        Case in point: At the founding conference of NaFFAA two years ago, a resolution on Gays and Lesbians almost caused a rupture.  When a vote was called, the room was literally split in half - with the youth in support of the resolution on one side, and the adults against, on the other.  Community leaders, including Filipino World War II veterans who had  marched earlier with the youth,  appeared to have forsaken them.  The youth had assumed that unity meant tolerance and acceptance of differences. 

Some adult leaders threatened to walk out, while some of the youth heckled and cussed.  To be sure, both sides had reasons to be angry.  A fragile unity hang on a precarious balance. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the leaders found common ground. 

        Another case in point: At the 2nd empowerment 
conference, Comedian Rex Navarette offended some adults when he made fun of Philippine President Joseph Estrada and the Roman Catholic Church. A diplomat's wife hurled a bread roll at the comedian.  Enraged, some youth jeered at the adults' juvenile behaviour.   Once again, the room was literally split in two, with most of the youth on one side of the hall and adults on the other. Afterwards, while some of the adults were ballroom dancing, the youth opted  to caucus in a jampacked room elsewhere to vent. Fortunately, cooler heads once again prevailed, with the youth themselves struggling to rise above the fray. Another potential rupture was averted 

        Most recently, First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke 
before an adoring audience that packed the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton & Towers. That was a  uch-needed boost for unification which NaFFAA has promoted as its mission.  As someone aptly noted, everyone was swept away by the crowd's euphoria and by the historic appearance of the First Lady. 

Unfortunately, as viewed by some delegates who  appened to be Republicans, there was an appearance of political partisanship by NaFFAA's national leaders.  Although they did not officially endorse the First Lady's bid for the U.S. Senate,  their actions before and after Hillary's speech gave 
the impression that she was the overwhelming favorite over her Republican rival. 

        The Republican delegates were not alone in being understandably upset and with good reason.  Some Democrats and strong Clinton supporters were concerned as well.  For one, NaFFAA could lose its non-profit status. But more importantly, NaFFAA  could also lose its  supporters.  As someone noted, "we are in a vulnerable stage in our growth progress as a national organization. We cannot afford to let down the many proud Fil-Ams nationwide who are beginning to know and have  confidence 
in NaFFAA as the national voice of all Fil-Ams." 

        The onus, now more than ever,  is on our national leaders not only to practice what they preach but to behave in a way that will engender the trust of the hundreds of Filipino Americans who are responding to the call to unity and empowerment. 

        This means walking the fine line because the road to unity at this stage is still full of land mines. 


    Jon Melegrito is the Executive Director of the National Federation of Filipino American
Associations (NaFFAA). Email your comments to jonmele@naffaa.org


Central Asia

Foreigners may buy
shares of Uzbek
companies in 2000

(Almaty Herald)

Central Asia unfazed
by Y2K bug


East Asia

Korean leader stresses
patience in unification

(Korea Herald)

Princess Masako suffers

(Straits Times)

Pacific Islands

Youngest Tongan prince
appointed as PM


Hutjena accord signed
for Bougainville

(The National)

South Asia

Bomb kills 11
in Srinagar

(Hong Kong Standard)

Suicide bomber kills
12 in Sri Lanka


Southeast Asia

Judgement looms on
Vizconde massacre

Floods force Hanoi
to prepare
(Hong Kong Standard)


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