PINOY Newsmagazine/Philippine News
Text and photos by Ted Regencia
CHICAGO — “As a woman, I am calling all the women of America to rise up. We rise up this time, and get the first woman president elected to the White House,” Loida Nicolas-Lewis, former president of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) declared.
Lewis made the assertion in a one-on-one interview, before she spoke to an assembly of Chicago-based Filipino American supporters of New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who gathered in Chicago last November 20, to show their support for the presidential bid of the former First Lady.
While Clinton operatives try to play down the role of gender in the campaign trail, Lewis took the issue head-on saying, “America is still very sexist. There’s a lot of baggage in the American psyche, and one of them is the gender issue.”
Lewis even highlighted Hillary’s experience as wife of former President Bill Clinton. She said Hillary showed her “real strength” when she stuck with her husband during “the lowest, most scandalous, most painful part of their marriage life.”
“For me in a very personal way, that is really the yardstick by which I say, she can be president, because there are certain things that she sticks by,” Lewis added.
Lewis is a long-time supporter, contributor, and bundler for Hillary. In 1999, when Hillary was preparing to run for the Senate in New York, Lewis raised money and gathered other contributors in the Asian-American community.
She recalled that in 1999, she introduced Hillary before the NaFFAA national convention in New York City as “the future president of that United States.” “That was 1999, I predicted that already. From the very beginning, I have been there,” Lewis said.
Now, Lewis, a multi-millionaire lawyer and businesswoman, works as the chairman of the Asian Americans for Hillary in the state of New York.
“Every fundraising, I would bring 20 Filipinos, 40 Filipinos. And we are very visible. I want to show to her that she has a strong support in the Filipino community. Every fundraising in New York, there’s always a contingency of Filipinos. She’s been very appreciative of that,” Lewis stressed.
Hillary has strong ties to the Windy City. She was born in Chicago and raised in the nearby north suburb of Park Ridge. But the state of Illinois, including Chicago has become an “Obama country” since Barack Obama, the junior freshman senator declared his presidential ambition. Obama won a landslide in 2004.
Obama’s candidacy has changed the dynamics of the Democratic primary, giving front-runner Clinton a run for her money. But at least in the race to form a group of Filipino-American volunteers in Chicago, Hillary is now leading.
During her talk, Lewis admitted that she first hesitated to campaign here, in deference to her Filipino friends rooting for Obama. Eventually, she decided to make her pitch, saying Clinton is “the best candidate” and that she understands the issues important to the Filipino community.
“Hillary knows about the Filipino veterans from way back. Ever since, she has seen the injustice done to our Filipino World War II veterans,” Lewis said. “During her six years as senator of New York, every time the bill is introduced, she is a sponsor. She would always meet with us when we visit Congress.”
While Clinton is being criticized as a flip-flopper on the issue of immigration, she is in the best position to fix the broken system, Lewis pointed out.
“On one hand, she is right. We have to strengthen our laws, so that we don’t have invariably this problem of having illegals. But those who are here already in the United States, she is for amnesty. We have to recognize that they are here. That they are earning, they are contributing taxes. That’s one very important issue,” Lewis said.
Organized and hosted by Hillary-convert and community leader, Marlon Pecson, the pre-dominantly female crowd responded to Lewis message with enthusiasm, cheering her on as she delivered her pep talk. Later, Jelly Carandang, a Filipino American commissioner in the Village of Skokie, signed up volunteers to help in the Iowa Caucus on January 3.
Pecson, the host of the event said that he also believes Clinton is the most experienced and most winnable candidate in the race.