The Battle for Texas: An Anniversary

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This is Part 2 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas. Read “Part 1: Meet the Democrats” here.

Yesterday marked three months until Election Day 2014 in the United States, and in Texas that means a very important race: the gubernatorial race between Democratic darling state Senator Wendy Davis and her Republican opponent, current Attorney General Greg Abbott. The Texas Democratic Party has never been more energized, and as both campaigns are preparing to go into full swing coupled with the national attention on Texas politics for the first time in a long time, the 2014 race could never be bigger.

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This past month, I had the opportunity to see Texas politics up close and personal. From June 26 to July 16, I attended the University of Texas National Institute of Forensics (UTNIF), a three week debate camp in the heart of Austin. While it wasn’t explicitly related to politics—although all of us stayed in touch with big political events, especially the disappointing Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling—my journey in Texas politics officially began around the same time UTNIF started.

The Filibuster Anniversary

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June 25, 2014 officially marked the one-year of anniversary of Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster, where she stood for eleven hours to stop a draconian anti-abortion bill that would eventually pass the next day. While Democrats may have won the first abortion battle, they lost the abortion war; however, it catapulted Wendy Davis into the national spotlight and allowed her and Leticia Van de Putte’s bids for governor and lieutenant governor to become a reality.

To celebrate the historic filibuster, the Texas Democrats held a big anniversary event in Austin, Texas at the Palmer Convention Center—conveniently within walking distance of the hotel I’d be staying at on the same night I’d be getting into Austin. There’s no way I could miss it.

IMG_2709When I showed up that evening with my mom, we were able to get free tickets at the door. Making our way through the winding halls of the convention center, we got stopped a few times—one time was for me to give my reasons to a camera on why I support Wendy Davis (I mentioned her education filibuster to attempt to stop $5.4 billion of cuts to Texas public educations) and the second time was to write down our information on the back of the ticket in order to enter further to where all the fun was happening.

What I didn’t realize was that ticket—the one where I marked that I would be a “young voter” (although only for the presidential election, not the midterms)—would be the start of my relationship with the Wendy Davis campaign.

Unsure of where to go next, my mom turned into a large convention room filled with people—the room Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and a host of others would be speaking.

As it turned out, we didn’t belong in that room. It was only for people who had donated a certain amount of money (I believe it was $20 but I’m not sure), not for people like me who had just gotten the free tickets. A man behind us noticed our mistake and quickly told us, “Put away your tickets.” My mom and I, both confused, questioned him, asking him why, only to get an explanation that no, we didn’t belong there but if we put away our tickets so no one would see it, he wouldn’t tell on us. :)

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Some of the more prominent speakers included Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin and current Texas state senator, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the last Democratic governor of Texas: Anne Richards.

But it didn’t take very long for Leticia Van de Putte, the state senator from San Antonio running for lieutenant governor against Tea Party opponent Dan Patrick, to come out and steal the show with a powerful address, bringing us back to her experience on the floor of the Texas Capitol on that fateful night a year ago. Her father had passed away so she didn’t originally plan on coming to the filibuster, but as she turned on the news to see Wendy Davis had already received two points of order (three kills a filibuster under Texas filibuster rules) for having help putting on a back brace and mentioning Planned Parenthood’s budget, she decided that her dad would’ve wanted her to go do her job and she hoped that she could provide some support to an exhausted Wendy Davis.

After her speech came Wendy Davis herself, the woman the whole night revolved around. Wendy Davis was able to inject some energy into the crowd, one that had largely been following her since the night of the filibuster and experienced all the campaign ups and downs—from when her personal story was viciously attacked despite the discrepancies (if you can call them that) being so minuscule to one poll that put her within only 7 points of her opponent and another poll soon after that put her down by about 14.

And it worked. By the end, the crowd was energetic, excited, and ready for action.

For me I think the real treat of the night was the fact that I was so incredibly close to people I admired so very much, and I was even able to get my shirt signed by the two women at the top of the ticket!

That day was important so many reasons—one of which was invigorating a beleaguered political party that, despite controlling the White House, couldn’t win a single statewide office for 20 years. The Texas Democrats have grown bigger, louder, and more ready to fight, all because of Wendy Davis’ filibuster on June 25, 2013.

On a more personal level, it began a personal relationship with the Wendy Davis campaign for me. One that I’ll talk it about next time. :)

Top of the Rock: The New York City Skyline

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All of these photos were taken on July 23, 2014 at the Top of the Rock in Manhattan. After fighting my way to some of the more optimal spots and waiting around for hours and even getting rained on, I was able to get these pictures of Manhattan at dusk, during sunset, and after dark.

New York City truly is one of the most beautiful, interesting, and breathtaking cities in the world—a city ripe with dreams and opportunities. Hopefully you can get a glimpse of it through these photos.

For my photo blog of Times Square (that includes a short video panorama), click here.

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Thai Culture and Food Festival

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On May 24–25, the Thai community and Buddhist Center of Dallas celebrated their first Thai Culture and Food Festival.

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I love when different groups open and share parts of their culture, so it was really exciting to have the Thai community be willing to open up to the rest of Dallas to share their food, music, traditional dances, and even their Buddhist temple. And even though this was the first time the Thai community has held a cultural festival at the Buddhist Center of Dallas, it was definitely a success.

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by tons of tents selling all sorts of food.

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There was definitely more than enough pad thai and egg rolls to go around, but the most difficult part about it was that the lines were really ridiculously long. I guess just too many people like Thai food? Continue reading

I Am An “Other”

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imageLast week, I took my AP World History exam. When I left the exam, I felt lost and confused. But it wasn’t the questions about world history that bothered me the most—it was actually the standard identity questions before the test began. While I could rattle off my name, address, and school without an issue, there was one question that stumped me.

Race and ethnicity.

I was given a few options and was told to select one:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American
  • White
  • Other

I am mixed race. I am a Hapa, a half-Asian person. The easiest and most logical response for most people would be simply to mark Asian American. That’s what people see me as, right? Well, not exactly—people don’t really know what I am when they first see me and I’ve gotten everything from Middle Eastern, Hispanic, to purely white. But when I tell people I’m half-Filipino and half-white, doesn’t that make people treat me as a Filipino-ish person and not a white person? Well, sure.

And yes, in the past when I was told to only choose one, I would choose either “Filipino” or “Asian,” since I identify more with my Asian side, partly because I’m more comfortable with that part of my identity and partly because society doesn’t want to see me as a white person since my skin is a shade of brown. And last fall, when I took the PSAT that required me to list one race, I chose Asian and suddenly felt very weird and guilty about it. That was the first time I ever felt guilty about that.

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The Battle for Texas: Meet the Democrats

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This is Part 1 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas.

Texas Capitol and flag, taken by Jon Wiley.

Texas Capitol and flag, by Jon Wiley.

On Tuesday, March 4, all eyes in America were focused on one state: Texas. People across the state cast ballots for their party’s primary election, leading to some very interesting results from both the Republicans and the Democrats. The current governor, Republican Rick Perry, is stepping down, leaving the Governor’s Mansion in Austin completely open. (As a disclosure, I personally align with the Democratic Party, and I very much hope to see the Democratic Party win this November.)

The Filibuster

The beginning of the battle for Texas really begins in June, when State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) launched a dramatic 11-hour filibuster to block extremely restrictive abortion restrictions in a special session called by the governor that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose unnecessarily stricter regulations on abortion clinics and doctors who perform abortions, closing all but 5 abortion clinics. To stop House Bill 2, she had to speak continuously until midnight.

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By Texas filibuster rules, she had to stay completely on topic, couldn’t eat, drink, or use the restroom, and not lean on any desk or chair. After three strikes—first for referencing the Planned Parenthood budget, second for having a fellow senator help adjust her back brace, third for referencing the Texas sonogram law—her filibuster was abruptly ended at 10pm. As the Republicans in the chamber hurried to pass the bill, Democrats challenged lieutenant governor David Dewhurst’s ruling that Davis violated Texas filibuster rules, culminating in State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) slamming her male colleagues and a 15-minute “people’s filibuster” where a packed gallery delayed the vote to stop the bill’s passage.

Governor Rick Perry immediately called a second special session to pass the abortion restrictions, and after making its way to the Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision to not interfere with Texas’ abortion bill allowed the state legislature to set the bill into effect. The last rural abortion clinic closed within the past week.

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Why We Need More Ads Like Coca-Cola’s

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This post first appeared on The Roundup, but because most of you won’t be able to comment on there or won’t see it, I wanted to share it on here as well!

Earlier this month, as the Super Bowl went underway, one ad sparked more controversy than any other: Coca-Cola’s. Despite lasting only sixty seconds, a national conversation on the issue of multilingualism and diversity ensued. Disputes broke out on social media. Both conservative and liberal politicians and commentators argued over whether the ad was anti-American or pro-American. Against the will of detractors, Coca-Cola defiantly aired the ad again during the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, this time televising the ninety-second version and adding the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “out of many, one”) to the beginning.

So what was it that caused so much controversy? Singing “America the Beautiful” in other languages.

Nine languages were represented in the song: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic. All of these languages—with the sole exception of Keres, which is a language native to the Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico—were brought to the land we currently call the United States, English included. Really, unless you are one of the small percentage of Americans who claim Native American heritage, at some point your ancestors (or maybe even you or one or more of your parents) immigrated here by foot, boat, or plane.

Diversity has been a particularly important issue recently. The idea of “being American” is so widely debated and open to interpretation that no one can truly pinpoint what it means. How much of your “foreign” culture can you retain—whether it’s Irish, Indonesian, or Iranian—and still consider yourself a part of American culture? Does it mean anything if America’s most common last names go from Smith, Johnson, and Williams to Garcia, Rodriguez, and Martinez?

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I’m Ready for You, 2014

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Whoa, can you believe 2013 is already gone? The new year came pretty quickly, but it didn’t take me by surprise.

Yesterday, my family and I spent hours cleaning the house, vacuuming, and getting our home ready for the new year to arrive so that luck could come in. I made sure my wallet was filled with money, because an empty wallet means no wealth or prosperity. After going to a friend’s house that night, we rushed home ten minutes before midnight because it’s bad luck to be outside the house when the clock strikes twelve—or so I’ve been told by my mom and grandma.

Within those last ten minutes, we turned on all the lights in the house so that 2014 will be a bright year. I scattered coins outside the door and around the house—on tables, on the ground, on the counters… all so that wealth would be attracted to my home. We turned on the TV and the radios and made a lot of noise to scare away evil spirits.

As the clock struck midnight, I jumped twelve times so that I would grow taller, and we all ate twelve grapes, one for every month of the year—a Spanish tradition that melted into Filipino culture that’s said to bring about prosperity and good fortune. I left the door to my room open, so that the good luck would flow into my room and fill me with good fortune, too.

As quickly as you may have come, 2014, I’m ready for you. Continue reading