Over the past two years, the rise in anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, combined with a global pandemic have made normal, everyday life difficult for the AAPI community. By sharing stories and insights from those in the Chinese American community, Committee of 100 hopes to shed more light on the issue and help celebrate the amazing accomplishments from within the Chinese American community to the world at large.
The staff of Committee of 100 sat down with some of our Next Generation Leaders and asked them about their careers, what the past year has been like as a Chinese American and their hopes for the future. Committee of 100’s Next Generation Leaders program focuses on young leaders who are passionate about the organization’s mission to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans across society and advance the betterment of U.S.-China relations. The program was first established in 2015.
This week, we spoke with Dr. Chao Wu, who just won the 2022 Candidate for Maryland State Delegate in District 9A and is headed to the general election on Nov 8 2022. Dr. Wu is a Board Member of Howard County, Maryland, where the Howard County Public School system has around 58,000 students.
Dr. Wu attended schools in China, Singapore and the U.S. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a PhD from Electrical and Computer Engineering. After that, Dr. Wu worked in the private and public sectors and consulting business. He specializes in data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and enterprise risk management.
Since 2011, Dr. Wu has been serving in local communities. He led the creation of a China Sister City program between Liyang, Jiangsu Province, China and Columbia, Maryland in 2018. He was elected to Howard County Board of Education in 2018, the first Chinese American to serve in this position. He chaired the school board between 2020-2021.
Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?
Dr. Wu: How to be the bridge between Chinese American communities and other American communities is challenging. There is a lack of representation, participation and inclusion for Chinese Americans which needs to be overcome.
Committee of 100: There are more than 5 million Chinese Americans in the United States today and it is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Do you feel that Chinese Americans are well represented in government, business, and other parts of society?
Dr. Wu: Chinese Americans are not well represented. On the contrary, in many situations, Chinese Americans were stereotyped, discriminated against and treated as “the other”. The US-China relationship has a huge bearing on all Chinese Americans whether you are new to the country or you are tenth generation born in the US. For this reason I strongly support building US-China friendship and supporting mutual-understanding. There are more things in common between these two countries if we focus on universal humanity.
Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?
Dr. Wu: We Chinese Americans need to step up and speak up for ourselves and lead the changes. We should not expect others to understand ourselves better than ourselves. We need to advocate for ourselves, make our contributions known to the public, and share our pain and struggles. When our hard work is genuinely appreciated, we empower ourselves and benefit the whole country.
I think this has been an awakening moment for many of us. I used to believe that America was a melting pot and we could all live happily and peacefully with each other. I don’t need to highlight Chinese American or AAPI to identify myself. However, we have seen continuous assault, racism and discrimination against AAPI communities, especially towards seniors and women. Many communities stood up to support AAPI communities after last year’s massacre of six Asian women in Atlanta. Unfortunately that support is gradually vanishing. As an AAPI community member, we have to carry the torch and fight for ourselves.
Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?
Dr. Wu: I wanted to be a scientist and engineer since I was young. From a very humble family background, I worked hard in schools, became the first to graduate from college through family and community support. I am a data scientist in the financial modeling, machine learning and artificial intelligence areas.
My desire to be involved in community service was initiated by an event in 2013, when on the ABC TV Jimmy Kimmel show, Jimmy Kimmel joked about “killing all Chinese to pay US debt”. Chinese American communities protested in more than 50 cities simultaneously but no major news network covered the protests at all. Seeing so much injustice to the AAPI communities and other minority groups, I was more determined to serve our local communities. I strive to serve as a liaison to get others to understand our challenges, pain and struggles.
Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?
Dr. Wu: Never give up your dreams and try to serve the community. These two are inclusive. Please start your community service as early as possible, whether in professional areas, local communities or political areas. Through hard work in our profession and community service for advocacy, we make our lives better and make the world a better place for all.
Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?
Dr. Wu: I am a new generation of pioneers for civil rights movements, especially for AAPI communities.