AAPI Politics: Meet Tammy Duckworth

August 26, 2016

Asian American Pacific Islanders are represented now more than ever in Illinois politics. Our success in representation comes with tough challenges. How unified is our voice? Are we represented enough? What’s our future locally and nationally? Meet history making Asian American Pacific Islander Democrats from Illinois and learn their thoughts on these and other issues.

Tammy Duckworth is the U.S Congresswoman for the Eighth District of Illinois.

How do you see Asian Americans currently represented in local, state, and national politics?
It’s not where it needs to be. Certainly, we are under represented. When I get elected, I will be the first Asian American in the Senate not from Hawaii, which is a majority Asian state. I can’t believe it’s taken until 2016 to get there. I’m the first Asian American to be elected to federal office in Chicago, in all of Illinois, actually. This is something that we have to work on. It can’t just be the AAPI communities on the coasts who have representation, we need to represent the heartland of America and all across this great country. States like Illinois are a great example. I hope that we have more Asian American representation. We currently have Theresa Mah whose running at the local level and Raja Krishnamoorthi running for my Congressional seat. We’re going to eventually get more representation, but we have a lot more work to do. We are a part of this nation. We’re a part of the economy and a part of the educational institution. We need to be a part of decision making at the very top levels of government and we’re simply not there.

Are there Asian American issues that you are passionate about?
’m passionate about a lot of issues. Some of them are not specifically Asian American, but are ones that are especially important to Asian Americans, like immigration reform. I’ve been pushing very hard to make sure the sibling category is kept into any type of comprehensive immigration reform. Asian Americans, I think, are among  the largest users of the sibling category when it comes to visas to bring relatives over. I work very hard on that. Also, we need to invest money into the National Institute of Health to do research on medical conditions that are more prevalent among Asian Americans, like different kinds of liver cancers. I will continue to work on those. There are other issues that, while important to the Asian American community, are also important all across the United States. For example, issues of affordable higher education, making sure we don’t have a litmus test on who can come to this country, making sure you don’t have to be white or Christian to be considered American. That you can be Buddhist or Muslim or whatever you choose to be, and be just as American as the next person. I really see that I have a special role to play in representing the diversity that is our country.

What do you see as the Asian American voice and is that voice currently being heard?
I think that the great diversity among the Asian American community is why our voices have not been as heard, because we tend to break down along identities. Even among South Asians, there’s a difference between Pakistanis and Indians. To have South Asians having a different voice between East Asians or Southeast Asians; we need to come together. Caucuses that I’m a member of like the AAPI Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus are really critical parts in pulling everyone together so we have an unified agenda while we continue to work on issues that are of particular interest to our communities, and to make sure that our voices are heard. When President Obama was reelected, I think he received 80% of the vote of the Asian American population. We need to keep that up so that the political powers see that Asian Americans do make a difference. 

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Mia Park
Mia Park shares her passion of discovery through teaching yoga and acting. Currently studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Mia is also a producer, writer, motivator, and celebrator of life. Mia has lived in Chicago for over twenty years and calls this city that works her home.

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DePaul student Harmony Zhang ​acts in The House of Bernarda Alba​​ by Federico García Lorca, directed by Jeremy Aluma​. ​Lorca’s final play set in the provincial Andalusia, Spain, ignites with the funeral service of Bernarda Alba’s second husband. Ever determined that her five grown daughters maintain a house of honor, Bernarda declares they will have an eight-year mourning period of absolute seclusion. When the eldest daughter receives a large inheritance, potentially sweeping her away from this fate and into an engagement with a handsome bachelor, conflict brews among the sisters repressed by Bernarda’s rule. Set in a time of tumultuous political climate, this story explores the underbelly of what happens when a tyrant seizes power. The House of Bernarda Alba runs Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM November 7, through November 12, 2017. Free tickets can be reserved on October 27, 2017 at noon at the box office, by calling 773-325-7900, or emailing theatreboxoffice@depaul.edu. Press Opening is Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:30 PM. **Preview is Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The House of Bernarda Alba will be performed in Room 403 of The Theatre School at DePaul University at 2350 N Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 What's your personal story? I grew up in Tucson, Arizona as one of very few Chinese Americans in my neighborhood. I remember that my sister and I were the only Chinese kids in my whole elementary school. However, my family attended a Chinese church in downtown Tucson, and I also attended Tucson Chinese School where I learned to read and write Mandarin Chinese. I’m very thankful for the persistence that my parents had to have my sister and me grow up learning Chinese and holding on to our ethnic culture. However, growing up, I felt like I was never fully Chinese nor fully American. I didn’t feel the need to blend in with the other kids, but I also desired to connect better with others. An opportunity came up in kindergarten when the entire grade put on a show for the whole school. This was the first time that I felt like I was part of a team, part of a larger group effort to create something fun and beautiful. I remember that year, our production was called ‘To the Future and Beyond,’ and I sang the final solo of the show. In middle school and high school, I continued to take drama classes whenever possible. I loved learning about the lives of people so different from me, memorizing my lines, and sharing those stories with audiences. In college at Duke University, I decided to major in Psychology and Theater Studies, and also performed in three of the Theater Department’s Mainstage shows. Currently, I’m in my second year of my MFA in Acting program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. What's your character's story in "The House of Bernarda Alba”? My character’s name is Angustias, which means anguish or distress. She is the eldest unmarried daughter of Bernarda Alba and is already 39. Angustias is the sole daughter of Bernarda Alba’s former husband, while the rest of her sisters are the daughters of Antonio Maria Benavides, the man they are all mourning at the top of the show. Angustias’ father was rich, so when Antonio Maria Benavides dies and the property must be divided, Angustias’ share of the estate is much larger than that of her sisters. This wealth that Angustias has is then attractive to Pepe, who is trying to marry her, and while Angustias truly believes that he loves her for her, she really just wants to be loved and free from the oppression and alienation she feels within the walls of Bernarda’s house. What challenges does your character face telling this story? Angustias is constantly struggling with the antagonistic energy she receives from her sisters. No matter what she does, her sisters find some way to make her feel even more alienated and separate from the group. No one really gives her a chance to share more about herself. Angustias is always defending herself, but somehow it always comes off as offensive towards her sisters. She doesn’t feel understood. She wants her mother’s approval, but also doesn’t feel fully understood by her either. Angustias has a hard time in this story, because she doesn’t feel like anyone is on her side. How does the character overcome those challenges? Angustias changes throughout the play—I won’t give away too much, but in some ways, Angustias is redeemed from all of her bitterness at the end of the play when her sisters discover how they have wronged her. While Angustias behaved more out of spite at the top of the show, she begins to genuinely ask for help, advice, and empathy at the end of the play. Angustias overcomes her challenges of alienation towards the end of the play when she risks being judged by her mother and sisters by being more vulnerable, and seeking to find the truth, even if she gets hurt in the end. Any other comments? I hope that this play helps audience members to be thankful for the people in life who love them, to hold them close, and to try to understand each other instead of being blinded by individual desires. Why not work together? Why not be a team and create something beautiful? Life is too short not to make the most of it every day. Thank you so much for your time!
Mia Park