By: Alisha Bi
On the thirteenth of January, a (relatively) warm Friday night, APAPA hosted the first of many civic leadership conferences, aimed at encouraging the political and civic participation of Tri-Valley Asians and Pacific Islanders. I was fortunate enough to attend that evening and was, admittedly, looking forward to hearing from local civic leaders and volunteers give their testament of service as much as I was enthused to eat at Yiping Restaurant, the caterer and location of that night's event. While the food was certainly as excellent as I'd anticipated, the company and attendees exceeded all expectations that I had.
I arrived a few minutes early with the intention of meeting people as they arrived but was astonished to see that, already, most of the guests had arrived, evidently just as eager as I was. My first inclination was then to find a seat before the evening became a game of musical chairs because of the dozens of men and women quickly amassing in the room, so I sat next to Dublin School Board hopeful Betty Zhuang and former reporter for major Chinese news outlets Sylvia Tian. While everyone settled into their seats and plates of steaming pot stickers were brought out, Betty and I lamented the overcrowding of Dublin High together and Sylvia humored my questions regarding her interviews with United States politicians, one of which was Hillary Clinton. We all commented that it was such a great relief from the negativity plaguing the media to see so many citizens turning out for this event. Sylvia praised Betty and those like her who were more than willing to dedicate their time and efforts to uplifting the community.
Betty, Sylvia, and I shortly before eating our weight in dumplings
First to speak was former San Ramon Rotary Club president Patty Hoyt. She likened the Rotary Club to a group of friends all committed to serving the community, both locally and internationally, and emphasized the welcoming and hardworking atmosphere of her branch. Beginning with serving in her children's PTSA, Patty was soon involved with Rotary, to which she'd been introduced by Bill Clarkson, the current mayor of San Ramon who was also in attendance that night, and she described an instant connection with its members and endeavors. The global impact of Rotary is immense: in a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary has managed to nearly completely eradicate the presence of polio in many third world countries. To be a part of such an important mission, she said, was one of the many reasons she invested so much of her energy through the years to the Rotary Club.
Second up was Bill Clarkson, who I was astonished to see at a small gathering due to the inherently demanding nature of his position. He thanked all of those in attendance for their keen interest and pursuance of civic participation, commending a few individuals in particular who had already dedicated much of their time to local organizations. Although he was a bit pressed for time because he had another event to attend, it was encouraging to even glimpse him talking with all of the attendees. I may or may not have embellished the extent of our communication to my parents once I'd returned home.
Patty Hoyt (left) and Bill Clarkson (right) speaking
Throughout the evening, we heard from officers in the Kiwanis Club, which was responsible for the annual July 4th parade held in Danville which boasted an attendance of over 40,000 participants a year, as well as the Lions Club, which was taking innovative steps to helping the vision-impaired in third world countries while also assisting in the rehabilitation of American prisoners. To explain the process and nuances of getting funded by local corporations, a representative of Chevron spoke to us about the outreach aspects of her job as well as her long association with APAPA and APAPA Tri-Valley chapter president, Andy Li. A representative of the Chamber of Commerce also explained the role of the chamber within the United States, shocking us with its logistics and broad historical context.
At the end of the night, there was a generous amount of time left to ask questions and to network with fellow guests and speakers. The questions were answered thoroughly and patiently and I was fortunate enough to meet even more people who were taking constructive steps towards investing within their community. Though I reluctantly left a few minutes early in order to return to my family, who were forced to listen to me talk about the food and company I had just departed from, I highly encourage anyone interested in civic service and acquainting themselves with like-minded individuals to attend the next APAPA civic leadership conference, which will be held monthly at the same time and place!