St. Paul, Minn. (October 29, 2010) – Several Hmong community members gathered last month for a Meet and Greet with John Harrington, who is running for State Senate District 67 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Harrington reached out to the community to respond to the issues and concerns of Hmong families, and also to reassure them of what he was prepared to do as State Senator to support the community. The event took place at Hmong Village, a small business center on St. Paul’s East Side, and was hosted by Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council.
The mood in the room was warm, familiar and friendly as many of the attendees were longtime friends of Harrington from his former role as Chief of Police for the City of Saint Paul. His camaraderie with the Hmong resonated in the memories he was able to recollect with several of the members in the room that night.
Harrington recalled the many Thanksgivings he’s shared with the community at the New Year Celebrations, as well as the many members he’s had the opportunity to have dinner with. He remembered the celebration rituals and how he learned how to do the traditional circle dance.
Harrington also recalled how he was practically brought up by his friends in the Hmong community having moved to Minnesota in 1977. He remembers well the University Avenue neighborhood pre-Hmong settlement, and said he recalled the changes as Lao Family Community and several small businesses began springing up along what has since become an ethnic corridor.
Harrington acknowledged the Hmong community’s ability to bring life and vibrancy to run down neighborhoods. It was clear that he was no stranger to the Hmong and understood well the issues that the community faced. Harrington was treated not as an outsider, but as a friend who has taken the journey with the Hmong and has grown alongside them.
Boua Hue Vang spoke on behalf of the Hmong veterans’ benefits issues, to which the candidate for state senator replied.
“You are my friend,” said Vang. “I could not stand by and watch you get sick and not have proper care. My son is serving the country as we speak, and I will fight to make sure that you receive every benefit that he receives as a soldier for the United States.”
Vang was followed by a guest speaker, Dai Thao, of TakeAction Minnesota. Thao motivated the crowd and emphasized the importance of voting. The event closed with a question and answer session with the former Chief of Police.
The crowd’s biggest concern was whether, and how Harrington would be accessible to the community should he win the election. In recent years, the community has undergone a series of experiences giving them reason to have misplaced trust in the system.
In the words of the attendees, “When the community is stricken with great tragedy, we’ve felt like orphans in this country with no one to speak up on our behalf.”
Harrington reassured the crowd that his doors have always been open to the community and will remain so should he win the election. In fact, Harrington intends to convene with the community on a monthly basis to stay on top of the issues and to keep the community updated on what he’s able to do.
Many more questions surfaced throughout the night, and Harrington continued to address each of them as a close and personal friend of the community. He called on personal experiences with the Hmong, and supported his answers with definitive plans of actions, as well as highlighted the work he’s already done to show his commitment.