On Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) hosted the National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Leadership Summit at the White House. The summit was a joint effort among three organizations: the Initiative, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE). The Initiative had the goal of bringing awareness to the lack of AAPI representation at senior levels and to help advance more AAPI leaders in public, private, and nonprofit organizations. Therefore, it was truly amazing to see participants from all three sectors mingling and making connections with each other at the summit.
The opening remarks, delivered by Holly Ham, executive director of the Initiative, and keynote address by, Henry Childs, national director of MBDA, highlighted data across various industries that show that AAPIs, while having significant roles at the professional level, are limited at the management and executive levels. The future of our country is here, where minorities will soon make up the majority, and the environment of artificial intelligence and space are upon us — now! We were joined at the kick off by Melissa Fwu, associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, and Amar Shokeen, founder and CEO of RJT Compuquest and chairman of National ACE.
Two panel discussions followed the opening remarks and morning keynote. The first focused on the experiences, trials, and tribulations of leaders from the federal government and corporations. This panel was moderated by Mariko Carpenter, vice president of Strategic Community Alliances at Nielsen. Panelists Jeleen Briscoe Sindall, chief of staff for departmental administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Ravi Chaudhary, director of advanced programs and innovation at the Federal Aviation Administration; Qianoi “Linda” Jing, senior director at Monsanto; and Lorna Randlett, founder and CEO of Leaders Forum, gave wonderful insight on how being AAPI influenced their journeys toward success.
The second panel on key leadership development and advocacy from the private, public, and non-profit sectors was moderated by Erwin Furukawa, executive director of customer service at Ernst & Young. Panelists Guoxing Chai, global head of Retail Banking Product analytics at HSBC; Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies; and Victor Parker, acting deputy associate administrator at the Office of International Trade at the U.S. Small Business Administration, emphasized the importance of continuing to advocate for and develop the pipeline of AAPI leaders.
After the two stellar panel discussions, participants gathered in small groups to share what they learned and how they processed the information. Some of the descriptors from attendees included “power,” “inspiration,” “resilient,” “unity,” “bridge,” “courage,” and “imagine.”
In the afternoon, participants gathered in groups to share their perspectives and ideas on education and career development, business and workforce development, and civic and community engagement. This was the most interactive part of the summit. Each group had the chance to have an in-depth discussion and come up with specific action items to implement after the summit. It was great to see all of the participants actively participating in the group discussions and giving their opinions on how to better aid the AAPI community.
The summit brought together leaders from many sectors to exchange ideas and work in partnerships. “Leadership in any environment allows for a strong voice and action that impacts a team, community, or organization. We are pleased to have federal employees, entrepreneurs, nonprofit and corporate executives collaborate to help advocate and advance that strong voice for AAPIs across the country,” said executive director Holly Ham.
“Changing demographics are creating tremendous opportunities for minority business enterprises (MBEs). As key drivers of economic growth, MBEs have a unique role to play in catalyzing inclusive growth in their communities. It is my honor to help Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders grow their businesses and remain pillars of their communities,” said Henry Childs.
To conclude the summit, the Honorable Noel John Francisco, 48th solicitor general of the United States, delivered . He encouraged the continued commitment and passion of the assembled public, private and nonprofit leaders to build a pipeline of AAPI leaders across the country.
Holly Ham is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Henry Childs is the National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce.