The parking area was buzzing with activity outside the lovely home of Felicia and Tom Bhe in the Folsom hills, Calif., Nov. 12. The residence filled up rapidly as the guests registered for a picture opportunity and a quick meet and greet with current California State Treasurer John Chiang, writes Ras H. Siddiqui.
Many had gathered here to raise funds for John’s new campaign to seek the highest office in our Golden State. John has thrown his hat in the ring to become the next Governor of California, the elections of which will be held in 2018.
We all know that to reach that goal requires resources- first, you have to have people who believe in you and are willing to work on your campaign, and second you need to be able to fund the effort. These two steps are a must before any candidate can go out to convince the voting public that they are worthy of their support. And it appears that Candidate John Chiang is succeeding in these two areas and is working very hard to reach his goals with the help of his friends.
The diversity of those in attendance was very visible. With quite a number of Asians, South Asians and people with a European and Middle East origin in the mix, the gathering was as colorful as it gets, including the cuisine and appetizers served. The event catered to the tea tootler and the spirited, and those with a sweet tooth were also not left disappointed. Our hosts were both gracious and efficient. Tom and Felicia Bhe are experienced community workers and they certainly believe in John’s candidacy. The beginning social hour was either a meeting of old friends or time spent making new ones.
The final part of the afternoon shifted poolside, to the backyard. Felicia Bhe spoke first and thanked everyone from the bottom of her heart (both old friends and first timers here) for attending this fundraiser over the long Veteran’s Day weekend. She said that she wanted everyone to have time to speak with John Chiang, ask questions and share their concerns with him. She also shared with the gathering the reason why she was supporting John. She added that she had known him for about 20 years and that his parents were immigrants from a middle-class background just like many of us here.
His father was a PhD in Chemical Engineering and his mom a homemaker. She also spoke about his growing up and attending school with California’s current Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (who is running for Attorney General next year) and the great stories that that they had to share of those days. Felicia said that she was not supporting John because he was Asian but because he was qualified for the job, plus an honest and good person (no scandals) on top of that. “He really is the best candidate,” she said. She ended her speech with a Chinese saying about true friends and people like John who care for others.
John Chiang in his speech was quite convincing. He said that he felt privileged to be with us and thanked Felicia and Tom amongst others for their generosity and effort. He said that we are all a product of our life experiences. He gave the example of his parents, immigrants that came to America with expectations. It does not come easy, but what America does is that it gives you a fighting chance, said John. He added that his dad came to this country with about a $100 in his pocket, with English being his 5th language yet he got a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering. He also spoke of his church-going mom quite affectionately. Besides being a very caring mother she was also a tough Asian mom (as Dave Jones, his childhood friend also recalls). He added that his mom who came from Taiwan had four kids so she wanted four surgeons. But the closest they got was one brother who became an Ophthalmologist!
Chiang said that the America that he grew up in was quite different, as it did not have the diversity that we have today. Keeping the background of his parents in mind, John said that he wants to ensure that California continues to give dignity and decency, justice and opportunity to all. He said that we (his parents and him) had to face discrimination which is wrong. “Go home Gook, Jap, Chink,” were some of the examples that he gave. He said that he did not want our next generation to face that. He added that as governor he wanted to continue to continue his public service work that he has been doing for the last 19 years. He also stressed the need for the education for California’s kids as a top priority all the way to the college level. Housing affordability is also a problem and needs to be addressed, he said.
One can gather that it is not going to be an easy race for John Chiang next year. But in making our choices we have to consider that as current State Treasurer he already has a great deal of knowledge of California’s budget – both fiscal strengths and weaknesses. That in itself is a great starting point. He also has the personality to fit the job and appears to be open to ideas presented to him by others, and can present his answers quite clearly. It is no surprise that our community has become interested in him as a serious candidate for California Governor.