Asian Americans have made countless distinguished contributions to American society. Like other American racial minorities who have historically been denied opportunities within the American electoral system, Asian Americans have worked steadily to participate in U.S. politics and its judicial system. Asian Americans have a long history of seeking social justice and equal treatment by challenging discriminatory laws and practices in education, employment, housing, land ownership, immigration, and other significant public-policy- issue areas. Distinguished Asian American Political and Governmental Leaders is the first-ever compilation of biographies of Asian American elected officials, major political appointees, judges, and activists. It provides information on the life histories and political accomplishments of 96 Asian Americans, who have participated in political, judicial, and civil rights arenas of this nation from 1950 to the present.
Most of the distinguished Americans profiled in this important resource were trailblazers, being the first Asian American or the first of a particular Asian ethnic community, for example, Vietnamese Americans, to be elected or appointed to a leadership position. The late Dalip Singh Saund, for example, became the first Asian American and the first Indo-American ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives when voters in Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California elected him in 1957. Elaine Chao was the first Asian American and Chinese American woman appointed to a presidential cabinet post when President George W. Bush nominated her to be the U.S. Secretary of Labor in 2001. And the late John Aiso became the first Japanese American, as well as Asian American, judge in California when he was appointed in 1953.^L In selecting the leaders for this book, the authors have provided a glimpse of the diversity of electoral and nonelectoral forms of political participation and representation that Asian Americans have pursued. Included are biographies on each Asian American who has served or is serving as a state governor (Ariyoshi, Cayetano, Locke, Waihee); other statewide elected office (Eu, Fong, Hirono, Kealoha, King, Lau, Woo); the U.S. Senate (Akaka, Fong, Hayakawa, Inouye, Matsunaga); the U.S. House of Representatives (Faleomavaega, Kim, Matsui, Mineta, Mink, Saiki, Saund, Wu); and as a presidential cabinet member (Chao, Mineta). The authors have also provided a cross-section of 45 Asian American elected officials at the municipal and state levels for 12 states from Alaska to Massachusetts and from Minnesota to Texas. Among them are the first Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese American elected officials, as well as some of the longest-serving Asian Americans, such as Harry Lee, who has been continuously re-elected as Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, since 1979. Also profiled are Asian Americans who have played major leadership roles in nonelectoral political pursuits, such as Yuri Kochiyama, Philip Vera Cruz, and Angela Oh, who have made significant contributions in the areas of human rights, union organizing, and race relations.