Future Chinese Leaders of America: KUCI Podcast with Oliver Ma and Melissa Fox

This summer, I had the great pleasure of working with Oliver Ma, a 2015 graduate of Irvine’s University High School and now a history and political science student UC Berkeley, to create a new Irvine non-partisan student group called Future Chinese Leaders of America (FCLA).

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaking at Future Chinese Leaders of America about the Irvine Master Plan

FCLA “seeks to train young Chinese Americans in politics and inform the Chinese American community of the political issues it faces. During meetings, local leaders/elected officials will speak about a topic of their choice. Then, the students will have a discussion/debate where they are encouraged to think critically and to formulate their own arguments about American politics and society.”

In just a few weeks, Oliver and current Irvine Chinese-American high school students Marvin Li, Ted Xiang, Leo Krapp, Michelle Tang, Michelle Liu and others successfully created this extraordinary club through their own initiative and dedication.

My role in the formation of FCLA was encouragement, mentoring, and connecting Oliver to various California Chinese-American political leaders such as State Controller Betty Yee, California Board of Estimate Chair Fiona Ma, and State Treasurer John Chiang, who spoke at an early FCLA meeting.

Oliver and I recently discussed the formation and future vision of the Future Chinese Leaders of America with KUCI’s program “Ask a Leader” with Claudia Shambaugh.

Please listen here.

Our discussion begins at 1:42 and continues to 29:38.

新年快樂 Happy Year of the Horse!


The Year of the Horse

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, which begins on January 31, 2014, is the most important holiday in China, as well as for many people of Chinese origin throughout the world – including the nearly 30,000 people of Chinese heritage living in Irvine.

The Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos, plays an important part in the calendar, and each new year is marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 animals of the zodiac: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

This year is a Year of the Horse.

A Year of the Horse is considered to be fortunate and filled with luck, as well as a time of adventure and an excellent year for travel.

Those born in the Year of the Horse are said to be extremely confident and independent.

The Chinese New Year holiday was traditionally a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It was also a time to bring family together for feasting.  Today, the holiday remains a time for family, food, and the celebration of traditional Chinese culture.

My friend Albert Wu, a young Irvine-based violinist, violin teacher, and founder of Irvine Young Concert Artists (IYCA), explains his family’s traditions:

“Get ready for Jan. 31 to welcome the Year of the Horse!  The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for the Chinese, in which they celebrate family and a new beginning.  The New Year begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar, which is different from the Western calendar.  Before the holiday arrives, people will completely clean the house in order to get rid of the old and prepare to welcome the new. After the cleaning comes the decorating, and most of the decorations are red in color because that color signifies good luck. The New Year’s Eve meal is the most important meal of the year where families get together for a dinner reunion. They may choose to eat at home, go to a restaurant (which often has to be booked months in advance), or hire a chef to cook at their house. The Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, during which families often rotate which relative’s house they will eat at.  Fish is normally served at the New Year’s Eve dinner, and dumplings, because fish and dumplings are thought to be good luck and to bring a family prosperity in the New Year.  Wait… Who wants to celebrate with me for next 15 days?”

I do!!

Chinese New Year Events in Irvine this Weekend

chinese school new year horseThis weekend I will be celebrating the Chinese New Year at two special events in Irvine.

First, I will be attending a special “Lunar New Year Celebration”  at the at the Irvine Metrolink  Station, 15215 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618, at 8:00 a.m.

The first 100 people there will receive a free round-trip Metrolink ticket to Los Angeles Union Station (first come, first served) to join Celebrate the Year of the Horse by visiting the 115th Annual Golden Dragon Parade and Festival in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, one of the premier cultural events in southern California.  Enjoy a special Lunar New Year program with traditional Lion Dancers. Bring your family to taste the delicious free refreshments provided by Champagne Bakery and 85° Bakery Cafe.  For a chance to spin the OCTA prize wheel, bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. After the fun at the Irvine Station, take Metrolink to Los Angeles for the popular Golden Dragon Parade. Train departs from Irvine Station at 9:00 a.m.

I will also be celebrating the Year of the Horse at the “Chinese New Year Exhibition and Performance” at the Irvine Chinese School, located at 9 Truman, Irvine, 92620, on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 5:30 and 6:30 PM.

This performance has been a tradition for over 35 years. The school lobby will open to the public from 5:30 PM for the exhibition. The performance starts from 6:30 PM.

Here are the details:

What: Lunar New Year Celebration (and chance at a free round-trip to the Golden Dragon Parade in LA’s Chinatown
Where: Irvine Metrolink Station, 15215 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 8:00 AM
Info: 714-560-6282.

What: Chinese New Year Exhibition and Performance
Where: Irvine Chinese School, 9 Truman, Irvine 92620
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 5:30 PM (Exhibition) and 6:30 PM (Performance)
Info: For tickets, contact Rachel@sccca.us or call 949-554-6868 ex.502


Happy New Year!


Irvine Chinese School Hosts Inspiring “Immigrants Building America”

immigrants building america

I recently had the honor of presenting a Certificate of Recognition to the Irvine Chinese School and the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association on behalf of the City of Irvine on the occasion of the grand opening of the powerful new photographic exhibit “Immigrants Building America,” a traveling exhibit from the American Institute in Taiwan that features stories and photos of how immigrants from Taiwan and China have contributed to the United States and tells the “moving and inspiring stories of people journeying to a new country, struggling to establish themselves, and contributing their intelligence and hard work to create the vibrant America that we know today.”

The exhibit covers the time period from the mid-19th Century  – when consecutive years of drought in China coupled with the discovery of gold in California led thousands of Chinese workers to travel across the oceans to work in the gold mines, and then in the construction of the railroads, in the American West – to the years of discrimination, hardship, and expulsion under the Chinese Exclusion Act from the 1880s to the early 1940s – to the present, when Chinese Americans are celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions across numerous fields, including journalism, sports, politics, medicine, music, film, architecture, and science.

Among the Chinese Americans featured in the exhibit are Samuel C. C. Ting (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1976), Steve Chu (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997), Roger Yonchien Tsien (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008), Anna May Wong (first Chinese American movie star and outspoken advocate for Chinese American causes), I. M. Pei (Chinese American architect often called the master of modern architecture), Ang Lee (Academy Award, Best Director, 2005 and 2012), Elaine L. Chao (U.S. Secretary of Labor, 2001-2009), Judy Chu (b. 1953, first Chinese American woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress), Yo Yo Ma (b. 1955, Grammy Award winning cellist), Maya Lin (b. 1959, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.), Michelle Kwan (b. 1980, Olympic and World Champion figure skater), Jason Wu (b. 1982, fashion designer), and Jeremy Lin (b. 1988, outstanding college and NBA basketball star).

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox awarding  Certificate of Recognition to Irvine Chinese School

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox awarding Certificate of Recognition to Irvine Chinese School

I also had the pleasure of discussing the exhibit – and the crucial role that cultural diversity and immigrant communities have played in the success of Irvine – with the principal of the Irvine Chinese School, Yulan Chung, and the president of the Irvine Chinese School’s Board of Directors, Albert Tseng. The Irvine Chinese School is truly an Irvine treasure.  Founded in 1976, the mission of the Irvine Chinese School is to promote Chinese language learning, preserve Chinese heritage, enhance the understanding of the values of Chinese culture, and to advocate for Cultural diversity in America.  Located in the beautiful new South Coast Chinese Cultural Center in Irvine, the Irvine Chinese School is largest Chinese school in Southern California, with more than a thousand students enrolled in classes ranging from traditional Chinese phonetics, writing, grammar and conversation, to Chinese customs, folklore, painting, calligraphy, performing arts and other aspect of Chinese culture.

Visit “Immigrants Building America” and experience the struggles and triumphs of Chinese immigrants in America and learn about the many contributions of Chinese Americans to building the ongoing and still-unfolding American Dream.  “Immigrants Building America” speaks to every immigrant community and every American.

What: “Immigrants Building America” – Traveling exhibit featuring stories and photos of how immigrants from Taiwan and China have contributed to the growth of the United States.
Where: Irvine Chinese School at South Coast Chinese Cultural Center, 9 Truman, Irvine CA
When: November 2 though December 30, 2013
More information: (949) 559-6868

Click here for an NTDTV.com news report (in Chinese) about the exhibit and the opening ceremonies.