Georgia state politicians visit Tech’s campus

​​Long Tran is a small business owner of AAPI descent running for Georgia State House District 80 as a Democrat. // Photo courtesy of College Democrats

As Georgia’s 2022 midterm election approaches, politicians are striving to encourage civic participation in young people — with Tech’s campus being a major target for voter outreach. 

On Oct. 24, College Democrats, a student organization at Tech, hosted an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Forum. 

At the forum, several prominent political figures either running in the Georgia elections or involved with them spoke, including Representative Sam Park, Long Tran and Amin Ghoneim.

State Rep. Sam Park, the first Asian Democrat and gay man to be elected to state assembly, is up for re-election in State House District 101. This area comprises the cities of Suwanee and Lawrenceville. He has been serving in office for the past six years and is hoping for a bid for a fourth term. 

Long Tran, a small business owner and resident of the town of Dunwoody, is running for State House District 80, which represents the cities of Doraville and Chamblee. In addition to running his cafe, Tran also acts as the mayor of Dunwoody’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. 

Lastly, Amin Ghoneim serves as the political director of Bee Nguyen’s run for Georgia’s Secretary of State. Nguyen, a current State Representative for House District 89, was unable to participate in the forum and Ghoneim spoke in his capacity as a representative of the campaign. 

Overall, the three spent the duration of the meeting shedding light on their political journeys as members of the AAPI community. They were first asked what experiences they had as Asian Americans that assisted them later on with their political careers.

Park responded first to the question. He said that, as an openly gay man as well as an Asian American, “[he has] always felt like a perennial outsider.” 

Park said that, “because I have grown up as a minority in the south, [I’ve] grown to become more empathetic. I believe that shared struggles and experiences help to build camaraderie.” 

In reference to the same question, Ghoneim reflected upon growing up Egyptian and Muslim in the United States post-9/11. 

“[I] grew up in an area where democracy is not a thing, so it heightens my appreciation for some things that Americans do not acknowledge,” Ghoneim said.

The trio were also asked what advice they would provide to the people within the room that are aspiring to enter politics.

Park emphasized that “we need to understand how much power we have as citizens.”

He explained that citizens have the power to evoke great change and can take advantage of that through participating in the shared civic duty of voting. Moreover, Park said that “one must know their ‘why’ if they would like to run for office.”

For Park himself, the issue he valued most and emphasized during his election and resulting time in office was healthcare. 

For instance, during his first term as legislator, he “co-sponsored legislation to expand Medicaid in Georgia and defeated discriminatory legislation targeted at minority communities.” 

On the other hand, Tran drew attention to the aspect of time.

He said that one can run for office whenever — there is no need to feel a sense of immediacy nor urgency if they ensure that they still get involved somehow.

Tran has pursued many other career routes himself prior to becoming involved in politics; as mentioned earlier, he runs a cafe in Dunwoody. Prior to entering the realm of politics and holding public office, he explained that he “worked in I.T. as a network security consultant and then pivoted to mobile app development.”

Lastly, Ghoneim wanted to make clear to the audience that, though behind-the-scenes work happens without people knowing, it is nonetheless still very rewarding and important for the process. 

“Campaign staffing and organizing is very powerful work,” Ghoneim said. During the 2020 election, Ghoneim was able to work at the Iowa Caucus, a crucial step in the election process. 

The penultimate question they were asked by the host of the forum was to explain how the recent rise in Asian American hate crimes impacted them both personally and politically.

Tran recounted his experiences within his hometown during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I live in a fairly white and wealthy district. During the pandemic in the city of Dunwoody, I saw signs in front of a shopping center that placed blame upon Chinese and other Asian people.”

To conclude the meeting, they all expressed a similar sentiment. 

Park talked about the possibilities for progress that exists within Georgia and how he believes that these great prospects can be best utilized through voting — specifically for Stacey Abrams.

“For someone born and raised in Georgia, there is so much opportunity. It is up to the next generation to rise up and make use of all of the opportunities that do exist. There is a lot on the line in this election. We have a once-in-a-generational opportunity to elect Stacey Abrams,” Park said.

He also said that one should vote with the understanding that it directly affects their family and friends and that it is the most powerful non-violent action an individual can take for change. 

Likewise, Tran expressed his desire for students to spread the word throughout campus regarding the election and to vote early by utilizing resources organized by community leaders. 

“I want you guys to be with us on this historic journey. It is time to be bold — refrain from being timid or scared. We are setting the ground for you guys to take it away and turn Georgia into the best possible state it can be,” Tran said.