IACT And Civic Engagement
By Ashwin Ghatalia
The year of presidential election generates a lot of excitement, commensurate with national debates, media attention, of course this rah-rah reflects in voter participation generally to the tune of 60%.
However, mid-term elections, though are rather subdued affairs and voter participation dwindles down to as low as 7%.
For those of us living in Texas and especially in central Texas, this is an exceptional mid-term election.
All 36 United States house of representatives (our congressmen) from our State are up for election as well as our US Senator.
Those whom we elect will determine how Washington DC will function.
More importantly closer to home are the elections of our local representatives. State senators, executive officers, City council members and the mayor.
Local governance affect our well being much more profoundly and directly which include our services, our tax burden, the quality of life, economic wellbeing and balanced growth of our towns and cities.
City has a brand new experiment in organizing the city into 10 districts, providing for minorities to participate in the governance, hence each district will elect a council person and City as a whole will elect the mayor.
It is imperative that we get to know those who we empower to govern, that they address the issues that confront our area, that governance is good and responsible catering to every citizen’s and every community’s interests in an enlightened and just way.
Knowing your candidates’ viewpoints, qualifications, making them understand our vantage point, ensuring that governance is just, clean and efficient is part of our civic engagement. This is when citizens come together to ensure each group and individual is cared for in a win-win way.
Voting, participating in debates and discussions, understanding the issues, taking a stand on issues and participating in public processes are both a citizen’s duty and privilege.
This is an important year, two Asian candidates are running for public office. Your vote in primaries and subsequent November election will be crucial.
The two candidates with excellent credentials are Remey Ko ( county treasurer) and Richard Jung (County commissioner). Past year also saw pioneering candidacy by an Indian-American (Vic Vad).
At present the political parties will run primaries ( 4th March) to choose candidates who will seek public office in election(Nov. 4).
Helping the process of choosing the candidate ensures better representation.
One of the good feature of Texas is that every eligible voter can partake in primaries. One can take part in the party primary of the party of choice.
These then are the elements of civic engagement. This is our civic contract with our fellow citizens.
Of course the responsibility does not stop here. Those of us who are more blessed must lend a helping hand to those who need it. There are a number of organizations which now do excellent social services pioneered by Indian-Americans to name a few are “Be the Change”, Saheli, Hindu charity, IDEAYA.
While Indian American Coalition of Texas(IACT) seeks to Educate Engage and Empower the community members in public processes, it also supports the social services organizations in variety of ways such as participating in their fund raising, volunteering in their functions, writing articles , improving awareness among the community and providing recognition for their excellent work.
Lastly the civic engagement means reaching out to other communities. IACT has been a member organization of Network of Asian American Organizations (NAAO), connecting with broad spectrum of Asian communities, we share common culture and value system. IACT has participated in NAACP meetings, has reached out to other communities inviting them to share our celebrations such as republic day of India or participation in candidate forums.
IACT board members are actively involved in Asian American Resource Center(AARC), encouraging members of community at large to use the center. The organization will continue to strive to do more.
Through the course of the years of my association with IACT I have come across many whom I invited to join the cause, I hear from many who say I do not want to get involved in politics.
Yes, Politics involves holding office and wheeling and dealing , make compromises and get things done As mentioned in this articles a few and I emphasize only a few are seeking offices, for the rest of us it is merely civic engagement where we are able to make educated and considered decisions.
In deference to the office seekers, I have come across excellent people who seek public office and work extremely hard, are very well qualified, have a great vision and have dedication to serve the whole community in a selfless way. Supporting them also is our civic duty.
Nothing IACT does involves politics- especially in its pejorative sense. What it does is to ensure civic engagement of the Indian-American community and help create a positive force for better community teaming with entire Asian and other communities and hence a voice for a very articulate, educated and creative community.
The engagement brings recognition in the community at large that is why today we have secretary of state who is an Indian- American from Houston and a city judge who is member of our Austin Indian-American community.
It is in this endeavor that we appeal to our Indian-American community members to join us.