A man who normally sits only a few feet away from the president in cabinet meetings stood only a few feet away from Penn students Wednesday night.
Christopher Lu, the White House cabinet secretary, spoke to more than 100 students at the Penn Democrats’ event, “Moving America Forward: Honorable Christopher P. Lu on the Choice Facing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the 2012 Presidential Election.”
The event also featured 2002 Wharton MBA graduate Dilawar Syed, a member of the President’s Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Nina Ahmad, the chair of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for Asian American Affairs.
Lu was Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law School and later served as his legislative director during the president’s time in the senate. He was appointed cabinet secretary after Obama’s successful 2008 election.
As cabinet secretary, Lu is responsible for representing and relaying the president’s policy positions to other White House cabinet departments.
Lu described his current position in the White House as something that would have been “inconceivable” to his parents when they first arrived in the United States from China more than half a century ago, and emphasized that “our country’s strength is our diversity.”
The cabinet secretary mentioned that there are three Asian Americans in the Obama Administration’s cabinet — one more than in all previous administrations combined.
Additionally, the president has also increased the representation of Asian American judges in federal courts, Lu added.
He also said the upcoming election is “truly the most important election of our generation,” and urged voters to remember strides Obama has made in improving the economy, health care and education in the United States. “[Because of President Obama,] we live in a more inclusive country … that reflects our founding values,” Lu said.
Syed praised Obama’s vision, leadership and commitment to “a series of policies that spur new industries.”
He also stressed the importance of the upcoming election, saying it “will fundamentally define the way we do business.” When Nov. 6 arrives, Syed said, students would want to say they made the right choice and “stood on the right side of history.”
Ahmad, a 1990 chemistry doctoral graduate, echoed Syed’s remarks and commented on the unique role Philadelphia plays in the election — a third of Pennsylvania voters reside here. “We have a lot to offer in Philly, and you are a part of that horizon and that future,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure that all of you are engaged.”
College sophomore and the Penn Democrats Events Director Matt Kalmans said they were able to secure a visit from Lu after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) visited campus earlier this month and saw the great response from students.
College senior Michael Soyfer said the event was interesting, but “wasn’t quite as narrowly tailored” as he thought it would be. Soyfer said it was nice to hear from three different perspectives about Obama’s ticket in this election.
Wharton junior and Taiwan native Clarke Hung said, “[The speakers] provided great explanations when I asked about entrepreneurship and immigration … It definitely seemed like the administration is doing a lot of great things that would make it a lot easier for me [as a Taiwanese entrepreneur.] Looking at policies from the Romney side, there’s really no comparison.”