Obama, at Fundraiser, Pronounces Himself an 'Honorary AAPI'
By Jonathan Weisman
At a fundraiser sponsored by a coalition of Asian American political groups, Sen. Barack Obama today pronounced himself an "honorary AAPI," or Asian American and Pacific Islander.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced Obama at the fundraiser, held in a ballroom of Washington's posh Mayflower Hotel, noting that Obama's family includes Asian Americans and that he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia.
"The son of an immigrant, raised among AAPI's in Hawaii, Barack Obama understands the struggles of immigrants searching for an identity in America," he said.
The candidate's entrance was greeted by an extended ovation. His 20-minute speech dwelled heavily on immigration and Asian-American issues, as well as his own background. Born in Hawaii, raised for a time in Indonesia, Obama said his first college roommates were Pakistani and Indian. "Most importantly," he said, "I have a sister who is half Indonesian, who is married to a Chinese Canadian. I don't know what that makes my niece."
"Being here is especially meaningful to me because I consider myself to be an honorary AAPI member, and I think I've got some pretty good credentials," he said.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Asian American Finance Committee and the Democratic National Committee's AAPI Leadership Council, South Asian American Leadership Council and Indo-American Leadership Council. Event chairmen contributed or raised $33,100.
Obama ditched his usual stump speech for a more focused talk on issues of interest to the audience. He promised health care initiatives geared toward Asian American problems, gave a full-throated endorsement of federal support for minority-owned businesses (just days after McCain backed state initiatives banning affirmative action), and promised to restore the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
"We are a nation of laws, and if people are breaking our immigration laws, there should be consequences," he said. "But I also believe that one of the things that sets this country apart is that there is no one who looks like a typical American.... You can have a Honda who is a congressman. You can have an Obama who is a presidential candidate."
The audience was heavy with South Asian, Southeast Asian and East Asian Americans, but there were plenty of attendees from other ethnic backgrounds, as well. Among those gathered were Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia, Joe Baca of Calif., the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, delegate from American Samoa, David Wu of Oregon and Xavier Bacerra of California.
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