It’s been a big year for Asian Americans in politics. Here, some of the highlights and names you need to know.
If you didn’t know already, now you do — Pete Rouse is the first Asian American Chief of Staff in U.S. history. Rouse, who replaced Rahm Emanuel as the Chief of Staff in the Obama Administration in October, is of Japanese descent. Rouse is known as the 101st senator for his extensive knowledge about Congress. He had the role of chief of staff even when Obama was Senator. When Obama came into the White House, Rouse had the role of Senior Advisor. Rouse said in an interview that he “basically does the inside, organizational stuff and strategic stuff internally.”
Bobby Jindal was formally a member of the House of Representatives and is currently the 55th governor of Louisiana. On October 20, 2007, Jindal became the youngest current governor in the United States. Jindal is the first elected non-white governor of Louisiana, and the first Indian American governor in the country. In November 2010, Jindal published a book titled Leadership and Crisis that discusses leadership and how it influences events like in the occurrence of the Gulf Oil Spill.
If there is one woman not to underestimate, it’s Kamala Harris. Harris is the Attorney General of California, and not only is she the first African American and first Asian American attorney general in California, but also the first Indian American attorney general in the United States. Harris served as a Deputy District Attorney, then became a Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Finally in 2003, she was elected as the District Attorney of San Francisco and then again in 2007. It only made sense that from there she run for California Attorney General in 2010. The Los Angeles Daily Journal names Harris one of the top 100 lawyers in California.
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public School System of Washington D.C. announced her resignation on October 13, 2010. She was the one who founded The New Teacher Project, which works with urban school districts to train new teachers to help narrow the achievement gap for high-need students. The New Teacher Project was founded in 1997 and is a non-profit organization. In the 10 years that it has been established, they have recruited more than 10,000 teachers and reached 20 states. Rhee had originally started out as a teacher in Baltimore, Md., as a recruit for Teach For America. As a teacher, Rhee was able to help her students, who were ranging in the 13th percentile, raise their scores into the 90th over the span of two years. Recently, while on the Oprah Winfrey Show, she announced her new movement called Students First where she hopes to have 1 million members raise $1 billion to catalyze education reform in the U.S.
Ever hear of the name Sukhee Kang? No? Well, he is the current mayor of Irvine, Calif. In 2004, he was elected to the Irvine City Council and then re-elected in 2006. In 2008, Kang became the first Korean American to serve as mayor of a U.S. city. Then in November 2010, he was re-elected as Mayor. Both he and his wife, Joanne, were born and raised in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. in 1977. Kang was recently recognized “for his community leadership and citizenship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which salutes immigrants who have made significant contributions to the country.”