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The past, present and foreseeable future of 80-20
SB Woo

Let's start with the PAST. It was 3 and a half years ago when our community took it on the chin during the so called campaign finance scandal. The image of our entire community was tarnished for the misdeeds of a few. A small number of valiant individuals and organizations spoke up, but they were not heard. Neither the two political parties, preoccupied with their partisan interests, nor the mainstream media took into consideration how WE, the innocent Asian Americans, were feeling. We were every one's pussy cat. We have neither the numbers nor the unity of voice to protect ourselves effectively.

Our morale sank. Some wanted to swear off political giving forever. Others predicted a bleak future for the Asian Pacific community in general, and the Chinese American community in particular.

Against that background, the idea of nurturing a powerful AsAm political organization was born. We first assessed the political landscape faced by AsAms. Here's what we see.

When compared with other nations, the U.S. is the most open and inclusive to immigrants. But even in American, it is up to a small minority like the Asian American, composed mostly of new immigrants to organize politically in order to win equal opportunity, because there is another aspect of America.

That aspect was well described by a historian of American History who said, and I quote, "The history of American is the history of the immigrant underclass, using the political process,( I repeat, using the political process,) to climb up to the equal class." That statement applied to the Irish immigrants, to the polish and Italians who came after the Irish, to the Jewish Americans in the first half of the 20th century, and to the Hispanics and Asian Americans today. In short, using the political process to gain equal status is the American way. Having made that assessment, we formed the 80-20.

Our goal is obvious -- win equal opportunity for Asian Americans. But what does equal opportunity mean? It means for every man, woman and child to go as far and rise as high as their ambition and ability will take them. Don't accept a glass-ceilings above you. As an American citizen, you deserve equal opportunity to get an entry-level job or rise to the top. To accept a glass-ceiling is to accept a second class citizenship, which Chinese immigrants in Indonesia did to their lasting detriment.

Now we move forward to the PRESENT. Let me give you a concise description of 80-20 today.

80-20 is a political action committee registered with the Federal Election Commission. It is a pan-Asian, non-partisan, national organization aimed to empower ourselves politically. It uses e-mail and web site to recruit supporters. In the 17 months since its inception, it has expanded its support base from 300 to 150,000 persons, while communicating with them weekly through e-mail. Before this month is out, we will have expanded to 200,000.

80-20 has raised more than 1/4 million $$ in the last six months, $150,000 of which was raised through e-mails only. 80-20 advocates organizing the APA community as a bloc vote , repeat, a bloc vote, to become the crucial swing vote in presidential elections through its 10% share of population in California.

That 80-20 has gathered some political clout is without question. Political clout is based on the ability to deliver two precious political assets votes and money.

80-20's ability to deliver money is no longer questioned after today. thanks to the chairs and co-chairs, our staff and all of you. We made history. We set out to raise more than $100,000 tonight and hold the largest ever APA political fundraising in SF, and WE did it.

80-20's ability to deliver votes is no longer questioned by either political party. On the Democratic side, it was demonstrated by Gore's commitment to our Declaration just before the deadline. On the Republican side, it was demonstrated by the fierce, organized attack on 80-20 recently. The better organized and the more fierce the attack, the more it reveals respect for 80-20's effectiveness, since no organization or person ever attacks an entity that is in-effective.

Let's now LOOK INTO THE FUTURE -- FIRST, the immediate future. What does 80-20 hope to achieve between now and November?

80-20 hopes to achieve 3 objectives.

We hope to get a strong commitment letter to our Declaration from Gov. Bush. As you know Vice Pres. Gore has strongly committed. Our goal is that regardless of whether Bush or Gore wins in Nov, the next president of the United States of America will be strongly committed to apply the full power of the federal government to help As Ams achieve equal opportunity in every profession at every level. NO more glass ceilings for Asian Americans.

Next, we hope to have the privilege and honor of having prominent Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and other Asian American members join us at the Steering Committee.

Thirdly, in the summer, we will convene an endorsement committee, composed of 1/3 D, 1/3 R and 1/3 Independents to decide whether to endorse Bush or Gore. The endorsement criterion is concrete deeds done by the two parties that help us achieve equal opportunity between 1/1 of last year and this summer. The party that has done the most, gets our endorsement. We'll then roll up our sleeves to deliver 80% of our votes and money to the endorsed candidate.

It doesn't matter whether our endorsed candidates wins or loses next November. So long as we deliver 8 to 2 or anywhere near 8 to 2, every politician will from that time forward pay keen attention to our legitimate concerns, because they will want to win our support in the next election.

Finally, let look ahead to a slightly more distant but foreseeable future.

A year from this November, we anticipate to have 1 million supporters on our e-mail list. Two years from this November, we'll have 2.5 million. In other words, 80-20 will increase by yet another factor of 10.

In ending, I like to quote Sir William Gladstone, one of the most famous British political leaders in the 19th century. He said, "You can not fight against future. Time is on our side."

So I'll say to friends and foes alike. Join us. Join us so that we may win first class citizenship together. Join us so that there will be equal opportunity for all Americans. Join us so as to help make our beloved nation "a more perfect Union." Join us so that there will be "liberty and justice for all." Believe in our own strengths. FUTURE IS ON OUR SIDE. Thank you.

SB Woo is the former lieutenant governor of Delaware and currently serves on the Steering Committee of the 80-20 Initiative.

 


 



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