US Congressman Clarke
US Congressman Hansen Clarke

US Congressman Hansen Clarke (13th District, Michigan) urged Asian-Americans running for public office to embrace their “Asianness even more” instead of trying to pass themselves off as white Americans.

Speaking at a forum on “New Faces of Leadership” hosted last February 17 by APIA Vote-Michigan at the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM) in Southfield, Congressman Clarke, a Bangladeshi-American, said that his being an Asian was not a minus factor in his chances of getting elected to public office, but instead it has boosted his chances of winning in elections.[box type=”default” size=”large”] Don’t try to pass yourselves off as white Americans, solon says [/box]Clarke was elected in November 2010 to represent the people of the 13th District at the US Congress. He has the distinction of being the first Bangladeshi-American elected to the US Congress.

Before his election as US congressman, he was elected thrice to the Michigan House of Representatives and twice to the Michigan Senate.

When campaigning, he said, he tells people, “This is what I am, and I’m someone who believes in myself.” He also said that Asian Americans should not try to become  white Americans as he urged the people in the audience to vote for qualified Asian Americans during elections.

Clarke was one of the four Asian-American officials who spoke at the forum. The three others were State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood, Canton Trustee Syed Taj and Gross Pointe Woods City Council Member Kevin Ketels.

Ketels is a young Filipino-American whose mother, a doctor, hails from Manila. Wearing a barong Tagalog, Ketels said that he is proud of his Filipino heritage and that he is trying to set a good example for Asian youths. “My ethnicity was not an issue,” he commented.

Ketels is the chief executive officer and owner of KMED LLC, a healthcare company that manages clinical trials on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. He is also an adjunct professor in the school of business administration of Wayne State University, teaching marketing strategy in the school’s MBA program.

He was appointed to the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council in February 2011 and was elected to the same position in November 2011.

Meanwhile, US Congresswoman Judy Chu (32nd District, California) lauded APIA Vote-Michigan headed by Stephanie Chang for being the first group to react to the anti-Asian campaign ad of former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

“I am glad that you denounce it,” Chu told APIA Vote.

Chu, who has the distinction as the first Chinese-American woman to be elected to the US Congress, came all the way to Michigan from California to address the forum.

She related how she won a seat in the US Congress, saying she was able to beat the old boys network in her district (Monterey Park) through the help of alliances and coalitions.

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