Southwest Airlines makes a positive difference in the Asian Pacific American community during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and throughout the year by supporting nonprofit organizations nationwide.
This past week, I had the honor of hosting Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s second annual Youth Leadership Summit. Seventeen bright, young Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders from across the country joined us in Washington, D.C. for three days of leadership trainings that culminated in meetings with the offices of members of Congress. The summit is an important component of AAJC’s work, as it provides us an opportunity to invest in the emerging leaders of our communities, and expose these young leaders to a network of AAPI advocates.
I have been a community organizer for 15 years, and during that time my most fond memories have been those where I have had the opportunity to work with young emerging leaders. It is events like the Youth Leadership Summit that remind me that my heart is in the right place, and that my work is, at its core, about bringing people together, sharing life experiences, and finding commonalities.
Storytelling quickly became the running theme of the 2015 summit. We began by sharing stories with one another. We shared what it is that made us who we are today, what drives us in our quest to be of service to our communities and to fight for social justice. This process of opening up to strangers is never easy, but it created a bond among the participants and in a short time forged friendships that will last forever.
But the storytelling did not stop there. Throughout the summit we emphasized how important storytelling is in advocacy work. Be it in a meeting with a member of Congress to show how policies impact people’s lives, or in our efforts to build alliances with those seemingly different from ourselves, the power of our stories and common bonds was a constant theme throughout the summit.
After the workshops were done, summit leaders worked with our policy attorneys to prepare for legislative visits with the offices of ten members of Congress, sharing policy priorities and putting storytelling into practice as they shared their personal experiences with legislative staff. Some visits were easy, some less so, but all gave a sense of accomplishment to those who participated. They had taken a stand for themselves and their communities.
That evening, several of the youth summit participants toured the monuments of the national mall. They shared with me the next day that they stood at the spot where Martin Luther King delivered his I Have a Dream Speech, and in that moment they realized that in taking a stand for a better world they were following in the footsteps of this great leader.