A wave of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Officials has recently been sworn into office, making history in increasing representation. Irene Shin (D) won the election in the Virginia House of Representatives to represent the 86th District. Irene Shin, daughter of Korean Immigrants, is the First Korean American to occupy a seat in the Virginia House of Representatives. Before entering public office, Irene Shin was the Executive Director of Virginia Civic Engagement Table, a nonprofit organization that organizes communities to increase civic education and engagement across the Commonwealth.
In an interview with the East-West Center’s Young Professional, Vannary Kong, regarding her election, Representative Irene Shin stated, “It’s 2021. I honestly didn’t think I’d get to be the first anything in 2021. And yet here we are, on the other side of a history-making campaign. I’m so proud to be elected as the very first Korean American woman to the Virginia General Assembly. ”
In the City of Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman of color elected as Mayor. Michelle Wu is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. Back in 2016, she was the first Asian American to serve on the Boston City Council as President.
In the Midwestern city of Cincinnati, Aftab Pureval won as the First Asian American Mayor. His father is an immigrant from India and his mother is an immigrant from Tibet. Aftab Pureval worked as a lawyer for several years before pursuing a career in public office.
In Seattle, Washington Bruce Harrell, who is of African American and Japanese descent, became Seattle’s first Asian Mayor and second African American Mayor. Bruce Harrell has worked as an attorney and for the Seattle City Council representing District 2.
With an increase in the Asian American Pacific Islander population, there is also a growing demand for representation in public office. More leaders within the AAPI community are stepping in to raise the voices of their community. David Kim, a former State Department Official, stated in an interview with Vannary Kong, “it is refreshing to see young AAPI candidates like Irene being involved at the State level.” Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic within the United States, yet are the most underrepresented in public office, making up less than 1% of representation in public offices. This is an exciting time for the AAPI community to continue to increase representation.
To continue to promote opportunities and increase the political power of the AAPI community, President Biden launched Executive Order 14031 Advancing Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. In response to this executive order, Biden-Harris Administration’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI), will be led by U.S. Ambassador Katherine Tai and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. This initiative will apply a whole government approach to support the needs of the AAPI Community.
Vannary Kong is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a Master's Student at Harvard University pursuing International Relations with a Certificate in National Security.