Obama appoints Chinese American to commission

Updated: 2014-04-22 08:18

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

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President Barack Obama has appointed Grace Tsao-Wu, a Chinese-American, to be a member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Established in 1964, commission members select scholars for exceptional talent in visual, creative and performing arts from a pool of 3,000 high school candidates each year. They then name up to 141 as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

Tsao-Wu's appointment was announced on April 18 by the White House.

She is a partner at Chicago-based fashion brand LaudiVidni, and is also the owner and founder of Tabula Tua, a homeware store.

She is on the advisory board of the Chinese American Service League, which provides social services to Chinese and Chinese Americans in the Chicago area, and on the board of One Million Degrees, an organization that helps low-income students get through community college. She graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Tsao-Wu has been a major donor to the Obama campaign. In early April, she and Craig Freedman, a fundraiser, hosted a Democratic National Committee dinner fundraiser in their Lincoln Park home in Chicago. The president was present for the 55-person dinner, all of whom donated up to $10,000 each, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In 2011 and 2012, Tsao-Wu raised more than $290,000 for the Obama campaign, and since 2007 has raised close to $600,000, according to the New York Times. Those amounts do not include contributions from Tsao-Wu herself and do not reflect all the money she raised for the campaign, according to the newspaper.

In commenting on Tsao-Wu's appointment to the Scholars Commission, Joyce Moy, executive director at the Asian American/Asian Research Institute in New York, noted that under the Obama administration there has been more participation from Asian Americans compared to previous presidencies.

Asian Americans' participation in politics has been increasing over the last decade, and especially in their involvement in the Obama campaign, she said.

"There was a fairly large turnout for Obama in the last two elections," she said. In the 2012 election, 77 percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama, according to figures from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Moy said that increasing Asian American visibility and growing populations of Asian Americans across the country are also influencing participation in US politics.

"I think there is a greater interest in participating and the reason for that is many people feel that they want their voices heard. The Asian community has not been invited to the table in earlier generations and now with the folks like President Obama, whose political career has been built on building coalitions, there's a great opportunity for people of Asian heritage to participate and to be invited to participate," she said.

Appointed with Tsao-Wu to the commission was Howard Borin, a Delware-based pediatrician. Current commission members include Sheldon Pang, member of the China Advisory Council at Brown University and vice-chairman of Freepoint Commodities, and Marina McCarthy, an associate of the Davis Center at Harvard University.