To all the young people I met who volunteered for Jay Chen’s campaign:
You were awesome. (In fact, I’m willing to be that you still are, and will continue to be, awesome.)
Defeat hurts — that’s how we know how hard we want to work to avoid it. But defeat is not the end of the world. In fact sometimes, like this time, it’s the beginning of a new world. You’ve played a role in the awakening of Asian-American political power in your part of the region — and you’ll be around to enjoy many decades of fruit from the seeds you have planted this year.
It may be hard for you to focus on that right now — so I want to make it impossible for you not to.
You know that Jay worked harder than anyone — just looking over Jay’s 45 pages of photos on Flicker reminds us of that. But he had to do that — it comes with the territory of choosing to run for office. You didn’t have to do what you did — and you did it anyway. I think that you know that you are better for it — and that we in the broader community are better for it.
You’ve learned skills, you’ve made friends, you’ve made professional contacts, you’ve dug deeply into yourselves to see how hard you could work, you’ve accomplished a great deal — and you’ve learned a valuable lesson about defeat.
The lesson is that defeat is temporary. Defeat can itself be defeated — and you have made yourselves warriors in that cause.
I imagine that you might be shocked by some aspects of Ed Royce’s campaign — not so much the huge amount of outspending, but the viciously blatant racist nature of the of the attacks. I imagine that you probably didn’t expect to see them from someone who expected to be taken seriously — someone who wanted to represent a largely Asian district, in fact! — and that they may have seemed unfamiliar to you, oddly unsettling, like something that came out of a different and less enlightened time.
Seriously, who goes around these days using words like “foreign,” “mysterious,” and “deceitful” in campaign literature? Ed Royce — that’s who. That part of the campaign may have wounded you (and worse, your parents and grandparents, who would recognize the style of attacks) — but I want you to know that in embracing that dark side Ed Royce has planted the seeds of his own destruction. It may take a while to dig him up root and branch and discard him — but with your help we will do it. East San Gabriel Valley, Chino Hills, and north Orange County are too enlightened to put up with that — and you, with your continued hard work, will be the ones to end it.
There’s a saying: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Many people in your community may have no idea that Royce even did these horrible things. They may not even believe them until they see them with their own eyes. But the record is there. And if it angers people who are now exposed to it — well, people should be angered by injustice.
You know what that anger at injustice does to people? It leads them to register to vote — and to donate time and money to get others to vote as well. And that’s the whole ball game in politics: if you don’t vote, you don’t matter to politicians. What matters to politicians is continued success — and that is granted or denied by voters. As the African-American community has learned, and as the Latino community is learning, coming out to vote is the key to power. Politicians don’t care about being yelled at or made fun of. They care about being voted out of office.
I had lots of people tell me, as I looked over my own district this year (which largely overlapped Jay’s), that part of my problem is that Asian-Americans don’t come out to vote. Well, you can change that. In fact, not much except for you will ever change that — because you embody the hopes of your communities. (Your elders may not always tell you that, but I’ll spill the secret for you: I’m sure that they’re enormously proud of what you’ve done this year.)
Here’s how it all works.
Jay is about 50% older than many of you. I’m about 50% older than Jay. Many people with whom I worked on our campaigns are 50% older than me. (That’s where it stops, by the way.) Each of us takes strength from the other.
When you look up at Jay, you see someone who has taken a path to success that you can emulate. (And for him and Karen, it’s not just a path to financial success, but to a success of loving and patriotic values, of maturity, and of fundamental decency.
When I and my elders look at you (and, for that matter, at Jay and Karen), we feel the joy and hope of the teacher who sees the young gathering skills we may never have had and moving in the right direction. I took energy from watching your spirit this year and I will take satisfaction from your future success.
Politics is never over. Protecting what is right takes eternal vigilance and achieving what is better requires continual work. You are now equipped to go back into your communities — your high schools, your colleges, your churches, and those parties that I suspect you may have from time to time — with some great stories and reasons for pride.
You didn’t waste your time this year — you stepped up. (And if you were working in Fullerton, Buena Park, and La Palma, you may have also helped to bring out the vote to elect Sharon Quirk-Silva — a monumental and historic victory for someone whose values fit well with Jay’s.)
You give us hope and reason for pride. And in the years to come, as you become leaders yourself, you will give us the satisfaction of being to say: “Yes, I know him and her from the first Jay Chen for Congress campaign, when they were just kids. But we knew even then that they were something special.”
You are exactly that. You were wonderful. Keep being that way in the years to come. Your country needs you.
Thank you for the hope and the joy that you have given me, from watching your dedication, this year.
There’s a saying in Portuguese, from the days of the long and bitter struggle against racist colonialism in countries such as Zimbabwe: “A Luta Continua.” (In Spanish, it would be “La Lucha Continúa.”) It means “the struggle continues” — and so it does.
I hope that you will translate that thought into languages that everyone in your own communities will understand — and that you will share it and live it.
With admiration and respect,
Former candidate for the 29th State Senate District