By Michelle Mai Selesky

Published August 31, 2012

Senator Rand Paul in his speech to theRepublican National Convention Wednesday night highlighted the personal storiesof Southeast Asian immigrants, including the Taingfamily from Cambodia andVietnamese brothers Hung and Thuan Trinh, who riskedtheir lives to sail to Americaon a boat from Vietnam.He told us about the risk they took to flee their war-torn countries – arisk often unimaginable to many of us born in the United States – to findfreedom, peace and opportunity in the country we call home.  

As a second-generation Vietnamese-American, Iwas proud and encouraged to see Republicans not only praising immigrants whoworked hard to build their own success, but calling attention to the oftenpolitically-overlooked group of Americans who so embody the American dream andare increasingly important to the future of our country.

Some interesting facts to consider: Asiansrecently surpassed Hispanics to become the largest group of immigrants to the United States,with Asians approaching 40 percent of immigrants in 2009 while immigrants ofHispanic origin were just over 30 percent. To add to that, the number ofAsian-Americans running for Congress this year has more than tripled since2008.

Republicans take note: As the Asian-Americanpopulation continues to grow and become more and more politically engaged wehave a huge opportunity – and a huge responsibility – to includeAsian-Americans into our party that promotes and defends our shared values offamily, small business ownership, and freedom from big government.

According to a Pew Research Center study released inJune of this year, Asian-Americans place a particularly strong emphasis onfamily, with 54 percent naming it “one of the most important things inlife” compared to 34 percent of all American adults. When it comes to theidea of hard work, Pew reports that 69 percent of Asian-Americans believe“people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard,” whereasonly 58 percent of all Americans agree.

Most importantly from a values perspective, manyAsian-Americans, particularly political refugees, understand the core valuesthat define American exceptionalism. That Americais founded on the truth that our rights come from our creator, not from anygovernment, dictator or king.

My mother, who fled Vietnamas Saigon fell in April 1975, knows whatit’s like when government oversteps its boundaries and freedom no longerexists. She knows what it’s like to have to choose to leave your owncountry, and to choose risking your own life, in the mere hope of findingfreedom elsewhere. And she knows that America is the last place on earthfor people in the world to run when staying in their own country is no longeran option. 

Republicans and conservatives, who have takenthe lead in defending Americafrom the increasingly big-government policies of the left, must includeAsian-Americans in our effort to preserve our shared belief in American exceptionalism.

From a pragmatic perspective, there are a fewimportant statistics for Republicans leaders to know:  

1. population ofAsian-Americans grew 46 percent over the last decade – at a rate higherthan any other race, according to the 2010 U.S. CensusDescription: As the make-up of the United States continues to changein the years and decades to come, Asian-Americans will become an increasinglylarge percentage of the voting population, looking for political leaders whowill best represent their values. It’s up to Republicans to include Asian-Americansinto our party – as voters and as elected officials – startingtoday.

 Thenumber of American businesses owned by people of Asian origin grew more than 40percent between 2002 and 2007, reaching 1.5 millionand increasingat more than twice the national rate, according to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners:Asian-Owned BusinessesDescription: These businesses employed nearly threemillion people in the United States. President Obama this year has madethe choice quite clear. By insulting every American small business owner withhis now-infamous “You didn’t build that” remarks, thepresident has thrown the door wide-open for Republicans, as defenders andpromoters of small business, to reach out to and engage Asian-American businessowners.

3. Thirty Asian-Americans ran for Congress in2012, which more than tripled the number of Asian-American candidates of 2008, according to the Asian Pacific Institute forCongressional StudiesDescription: Twenty-five of these candidates ran asDemocrats. To put it simply, Democrats have done a far better job reaching outto Asian-Americans. The GOP must make a concerted effort to include them in theRepublican Party if we want to be a national majority for generations to come.

In the past decade there have been severalpromising signs that conservatives are awakening to the importance ofAsian-Americans – not only to the Republican Party but to the future of America.For example, in 2001 U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao became the firstChinese-American to serve in the Cabinet under President George W. Bush, andRepublican Joseph Cao was the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress in2009.

Butit can’t stop here. The Asian-American community will continue to growand become more politically active each year. Republicans have the opportunityto engage citizens like the Taing family and Hung andThuan Trinh, if we are to truly represent all thepeople and all the values which make America exceptional.  


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