Amazing Leadership Pictured 11 years ago!

by Rev. Norman Fong

March 11, 2019

norman fong

I found this amazing old picture from Chinatown Community Development Center’s Lunar New Year Luncheon in March 2008. I love it because it reminds me of the great leadership that has come out of San Francisco and Chinatown. Who would have guessed back in 2008 that Ed Lee would become the Mayor of San Francisco? I was also sitting right next to Kamala Harris in this picture. Who would have guessed that she would become a United States Senator? Who would have guessed that Phil Ting and David Chiu would become State Assembly members? Jane Kim was our youth community organizer for Chinatown CDC and she became a Supervisor for San Francisco. Isn’t it amazing!

lunar new year luncheon

At the same time, I miss all three of those great leaders who are sitting in the left front of the table pictured: Rose Pak, Mayor Ed Lee and Public Defender – Jeff Adachi who recently passed away. Did you know that Jeff’s beginnings were linked to Chinatown? He worked so hard to get a Korean American immigrant - Chol Soo Lee- freed. Chol Soo was wrongly convicted for a Chinatown murder in 1973 and faced a “Life Imprisonment” sentence. It took years to over-turn the wrongful conviction. I met with Jeff back then and later in 1982 to help get housing for Chol Soo when his conviction was overturned. (Super thanks to one of our church members for housing him)! Jeff, of course, was well known and proud of being elected for five terms as San Francisco’s Public Defender. Jeff’s virtue was that he wanted to represent the “underdog” and “underserved.” Sometimes, being for the underdog comes at great personal cost. You ruffle feathers and risk relationships with many around you.

Rose Pak – you all should know as champion for Chinatown. Rose never ran for political office but she knew how to keep those politicians accountable! I remember co-emceeing the Chinese New Year Parade with Rose – for many years (since 1991). Whenever the politicians came to the end of the parade where the review stand was – every year, she would grab my microphone and say a few words to each politician! Sometimes the words were nice and most often she yelled at them to do more for Chinatown. She was Chinatown’s fierce warrior with a heart of gold for the community. She never made a lot of money or wanted to hold public office. For me, her virtues included Courage to speak out and a deep love (Big Heart) for Chinatown, China and Chinese American empowerment.

Mayor Ed Lee – everybody knows about already and we all miss him! He was totally different from both Rose and Jeff. He wasn’t the type to yell at anyone and lose his temper. I hope you all saw his documentary movie. I think it will be shown in May again for all to see. Yet, he too had to face and listen to complaints from many parts of the city. He too was courageous but more humble about it. He advocated for the Pings as a civil rights lawyer from the Asian Law Caucus but as Mayor, tried to build as much consensus as possible. He was Mr. Cool to me. He always kept his cool. His virtues include being very humble and diplomatic. Many politicians come off with a bit of “Arrogance” because they hold so much power. Somehow, Ed – who worked in so many city departments first, was really seen as the “People’s Mayor”. As his daughters proclaimed in the film, Ed Lee even kept a broom in the trunk of his car and stopped to clean up a mess he saw. He would always take time to talk with our youth doing the clean ups. I remember asking him to visit a friend dying in the hospital and he took the time from his busy schedule to talk to him. Such – humility. He was also a peace-maker whenever possible to solve problems.

Our current leaders stand on the shoulders of these three giants: Rose Pak, Jeff Adachi and Mayor Ed Lee. I hope our current and future leaders will embrace the virtues of these great leaders. Our community and city needs leaders with Humility. Courage; Championing the Underserved but most importantly being motivated by Love for the community.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on March 10, 2019

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