November 9, 2021
On November 2, 2021, Michelle Wu, a Democrat, made news around the world by becoming the first Asian American elected mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, one of the most important cities in the United States with a 200-year history of electing only white men.
Michelle Wu is the oldest daughter of Taiwanese immigrants to the U.S. and her first language is Mandarin Chinese. Her parents, like many others, immigrated to America looking to start a family with a better future.
Born in Chicago, she became her parents’ translator as young as four years old.
Her historic victory is important not only because she is the first Asian American woman elected to lead the city of Boston but also because her victory opens infinite opportunities to other immigrant communities: Asian, Arab, Hispanic, European. Furthermore, her opponent, Annissa Essaibi-George, would have also made history if she had won because she is a woman descended from Arab immigrants. Again, this shows that immigrants and descendants of immigrants have real opportunities in America.
In 2020, Vice President Kamala Harris made history in the U.S. by becoming the first African American and Asian American woman to become Vice President and the highest-ranking female in the U.S. government. She is the daughter of immigrant parents, Donald Harris from Jamaica, and Shyamala Gopalan from India.
After confirming her victory, Michelle Wu told supporters: “Growing up, I never ever thought that I would or could or should be involved in politics. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in spaces of power.” This is an important message to younger generations of immigrants and those descended from immigrants: where you come from it won’t stop you from becoming who you really want to be in the U.S. if you work hard for it. “We are redefining what leadership looks like,” Wu said, “and pushing for every single person to be part of that conversation.”
Roger Lau, deputy executive director of the Democratic National Committee, said: “I think that the Chinese community and Asian community are incredibly proud to see her doing all the things that she’s doing. She has made a really conscious effort to be an elected representative for all those underserved, underrepresented, who haven’t had a seat at the table.”
She never thought about a career in politics. Her grandparents had to leave mainland China during the civil war and move to Taiwan so for her politics meant fear and famine. In 2003, she received the U.S. Presidential Scholar award for her academic achievements and moved to Boston to attend Harvard University where she graduated in economics in 2007. After that experience, her passion for education took her to attend Harvard Law School where she had today’s senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren as her professor and mentor, which helped open Wu’s eyes to politics.
In 2012, the same year that Wu graduated with a Juris Doctor degree, Warren asked her to help her in her run for the U.S. Senate against never-defeated Republican Senator Scott Brown, by coordinating outreach to certain groups like communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and others. Michelle Wu had such a significant impact connecting with voters that her role was key in getting Elizabeth Warren elected as the first female Senator from Massachusetts.
The U.S. is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, offering everyone great opportunities to make a difference for themselves and everyone around them. Michelle Wu is just one of many similar success stories of immigrants working hard and accomplishing their dreams, and inspiring new generations of immigrants to follow them. Immigrants continue to make the United States a better and more prosperous nation, full of opportunities for everyone.
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