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AAPI Briefing

Last Thursday, the Office of Public Engagement brought over eighty interns from various organizations around Washington DC to the White House for a briefing on AAPIs (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) in public service. Just a few of the organizations represented included the Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Indian American Leadership Council, DC Mayor’s Office on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, and the White House.
The briefing featured leaders from the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce and the Department of Interior. Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement Kalpen Modi introduced OPE Director Tina Tchen, who welcomed the attendees and outlined the role of OPE. They and the other speakers spoke about the importance of engagement and empowerment, lauding the participants for dedicating their summer to service and encouraging them to continue to serve throughout their lives, whether in the government or the non-profit sector. Each speaker also shared personal stories, specifically what led them to a career in public service, and described the day-to-day activities in their current role.
(A panel of professionals discuss what led them to a career in public service at the AAPI briefing. July 30, 2009)
Candace Chin, the Special Assistant to the Director of Presidential Personnel, chronicled her path to the White House; first interning and working in the House and Senate, working on the Obama campaign and now, having the opportunity to work in the Office of Presidential Personnel.
Arun Chaudhary, the White House Videographer discussed his passion for politics from an early age. He ultimately decided to study and pursue a career in filmmaking, hoping to stay politically active through his films. But then he heard about a new presidential candidate with a "funny name" – Barack Obama – and decided to join the Obama campaign. And now, as the official White House videographer, Arun is able to combine filmmaking and politics at the highest level.
Ben Chang, the Deputy Spokesman for the National Security Council, entertained the audience with stories of working in Central America and at the United Nations as a Foreign Service Officer, sharing anecdotes about being mistaken on more than one occasion for an Asian diplomat. He said that he never took these moments of "mistaken identity" personally. He added that a rewarding part of serving as a career diplomat who is Asian American is reflecting in a small way the diversity of this country and changing some people’s perception of what is the "face" of America.
(Rachel Haltom-Irwin shares her experiences from working on the campaign and in the White House. July 30, 2009)
Rachel Haltom-Irwin, Director of the White House Internship Program, spoke about her involvement in the Obama campaign and transition to public service before telling attendees about intern opportunities in the White House.
Ray Rivera from the Department of Interior, Vicki Tung from the Department of Commerce, Gautam Raghavan from the Department of Defense, and Charmaine Manansala from the Department of Labor participated in a panel discussion about their respective agencies. Each panelist explained to the audience how they became active in public service, from interning for non-profit organizations to working on campaigns, and encouraged the participants to continue in the path of public service.
Office of Public Engagement Deputy Director Buffy Wicks closed out the briefing with an invitation for attendees to participate in President Obama’s call to service. For more information, we invite you to join us as well. Go to to get involved now.
For more information on the Office of Public Engagement’s outreach efforts, you can email us at