China-US / People

Li, 24, runs for House

By LAN LAN (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-08-17 04:51

Lindy Li, a 24-year-old who was born in Chengdu and grew up in the United States, is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives in the 2016 elections.

Observers said the pace of the younger generation of Chinese Americans participating in the political process has picked up and Li's candidacy is only the latest example.

In the most recent session, there were only three Chinese Americans out of the 535 members serving in Congress.

"That's sad", Li said in an interview with China Daily.

She hopes to be a voice for underrepresented portions of society, including the young, women and the Asian-American community.

Li served as the first Asian-American female class council president at Princeton University for four years and then after graduating worked for two blue-chip companies — Merck and then Morgan Stanley.

Still it's a long road to becoming US Congressperson representing Pennsylvania's Seventh Congressional District, even with a standout resume for her age.

She first needs to beat Mary Ellen Balchunis, a political science professor of La Salle University, in the Democratic primary.

The winner of that will then challenge incumbent Pat Meehan, who has represented the district since 2011, in the general election.

Li said she won't give up on her mission to serve the working families of Pennsylvania if she doesn't make it in 2016.

Her persistence worked well in her university elections. When she was 17, her first year in college, she knocked on more than 1,000 dorm room doors to convince her peers to elect her class council president.

She did the same thing four years later, this time leaving a letter for those who weren't in. That effort got her elected alumni president.

Her father, Richard Li, a real estate professional in Philadelphia, wonders if his daughter's ambitions started in 2008 when Barack Obama's presidential campaign team rented their building.

"A dream is not something that others can give you," the candidate said, adding that her resolve to pursue a career in politics started much earlier than that.

She said as she was growing up, her family talked often about female heroes, such as Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese warrior, or Elaine Lan Chao, the Chinese-American economist who served as US Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush.

Li said she had raised $130,000 as of the end of June, without any help from consultants or political operatives. Some donors were her young classmates, who gave $30 or less.

There is not a single Congressperson under the age of 30, says Lindy. "That means that no one under 30 is directly represented within the corridors of power," she said.

Haipei Shue, a Chinese-American community leader and Li's campaign strategist, said the impact of Li's campaign on the younger generation of Chinese Americans is huge and cannot be underestimated.

"Chinese and Asian values can and should play a big contributing role to the future of American society. We are very excited about her race," he said.

"Wherever she goes, I see the interaction and chemistry between her and the younger kids. Her fine example is, in fact, inspiring our kids to think the unthinkable: Why can't I run too?” said Shue.

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