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By Jon Melegrito
Walking A Fine Line
Unity. It's much easier to
talk about it than
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
Most recently, First Lady
Hillary Clinton spoke
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
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
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
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