Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2010) – This week President Barack Obama appointed Daphne Kwok to Chair the Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The AAPI Commission was re-established in 2009 as part of a White House Initiative to improve the lives of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities underserved by federal resources.
The President also announced his intent to appoint David Grubb, William R. Hambrecht and Charlene Harvey to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors.
“I am confident that these accomplished individuals will serve our nation well in these important roles,” said Obama. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
Kwok is currently the Executive Director of Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California. She was also the Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation from 2005 to 2007, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies from 2001 to 2005, and at the Organization of Chinese Americans from 1990 to 2001.
During her term at OCA, Ms. Kwok was elected the first Chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
“Daphne is an extraordinarily capable and passionate leader for the AAPI community. The depth of her experiences and what she has already accomplished will prove invaluable to the commission. OCA greatly applauds this appointment and we look forward to working with Daphne and the Initiative,” said Ken Lee, National President of OCA.
Ms. Kwok’s work with federal agencies has included being appointed to the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board (2000-2005); testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and being a grant reviewer for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
She also currently serves on the board of trustees at Wesleyan University, where she earned her B.A.
U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said he is pleased with Kwok’s appointment, calling it another demonstration of President Obama’s dedication to diversity and his commitment to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
“Daphne is a dear friend and extraordinary leader in the AAPI community,” said Honda. “For more than two decades, the community has benefited from Daphne’s committed advocacy and leadership. I am confident that she will continue to make important contributions in her new role.
Honda said that in her work Kwok has already demonstrated a passion for ensuring that AAPIs have a seat at the table and that the most vulnerable have equal access to federal government services. He said her leadership will be integral to the continued empowerment and advancement of AAPIs.
“I look forward to CAPAC’s future collaborations with the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and am pleased to continue our caucus’s work with Daphne in her new capacity,” he added.
Kwok’s appointment as Commission Chair will have her working closely with the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders Executive Director Kiran Ahuja, as well as Initiative co-chairs, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, on collaborations among the public sector, private sector, and community organizations to address AAPI community needs, such as language access, data disaggregation, diversity and inclusion in federal employment, and increased access to federal programs and services.
Kiran Ahuja, director, said that with more than two decades of experience as a community leader at both the national and state levels, Kwak is an invaluable asset to the Commission.
“Daphne knows what services and protections Asian American and Pacific Islanders need and what resources they can bring to the table to build a strong collaboration with the Obama Administration,” said Ahuja. “Together, we’re going to work hard to let all Asian American and Pacific Islanders know the resources the Administration has available to help improve their everyday lives.”
As chair of the Commission, Kwok will work with the White House Initiative to increase public- and private-sector collaboration and community involvement in the effort. Kwok will work closely with Ahuja and the Initiative co-chairs, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, in addressing issues that are critical to the AAPI community.
The White House Initiative has held dozens of meetings with top agency officials and community leaders from across the country on issues including education opportunities, housing, jobs, employment issues and health disparities. The work of the Commission is more important than ever as AAPIs have experienced the largest decline in homeownership of any racial group over the last year and their poverty rates, work-related injuries and job losses have also increased.
“Daphne’s knowledge and experience with our AAPI community has significant breadth and depth, and is just what the Commission needs to continue the important work ahead of ensuring that federal agencies are making a positive impact on the lives of AAPIs,” said Gloria Caoile, former White House Advisory Commissioner for the Initiative, and also an APIAVote board member and co-founder. “Her persistence in ensuring that there are community voices at the table makes her leadership invaluable to the Initiative.”
“We in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community anticipate working with Daphne and the Commission, as well as Kiran and the Initiative, to ensure that not only Asian American but also Pacific Islander issues are sufficiently addressed,” said Esther Kiaaina, APIAVote board member and Chief Advocate at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“We applaud President Obama’s appointment of Daphne. Her commitment to civic engagement has been unwavering,” said Leverett Wing, APIAVote executive director. “I look forward to the many strides our community can make working with the Commission and the Initiative.”
Dr. Craig D. Uchida, Chairman of the Board of National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, where Ms. Kwok has served as board member for seven years, and has led some of its most important initiatives from programming to communications to development.
“Daphne has played a critical role in helping us to further our mission to help America remember the sacrifice of Japanese American patriots during World War II, and to continue to fight for justice and Constitutional rights of all Americans,” said Uchida.