Jackie Bong Wright

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Two Vietnamese Run for Office in the Washington Area

By Jackie Bong-Wright

Two prominent Vietnamese-American activists, long-time residents of Maryland, are running for public office. Tommy Le is a candidate for the 2002 Montgomery County School Board, and Nguyen Minh Chau for the state House of Delegates, District 17. The two have been active in civic affairs in their own community for over 20 years.
Tommy Le is an engineer by profession and a former teacher in a vocational and technical school. He is currently program manager with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and has been consistently involved in school and community activities. In 1985, he volunteered as a soccer coach, and has served in various functions in the public school system. He is also a member of the Montgomery County Board of Electrical Examiners, and has urged that all electrical installations at school facilities be done by licensed electricians, particularly in temporary portable classrooms.
In his capacity as advisory board member for cultural diversity in public libraries, Tommy has advocated the establishment of computer facilities for students to do research for homework during non-school hours and weekends. As a member of the Up County Citizens Advisory Board, he has strongly recommended the construction of more gymnasiums, new roofs for a number of elementary schools, and the building of a new high school in the Quince Orchards area. He also voiced his support for improved vocational training as an alternative to academic courses for students not wishing to pursue tertiary education.
Mr. Le told this reporter he is running for an at-large seat on the School Board to further improve the public school system. He said he wanted to give something back to the Montgomery County community for having provided his children a solid education and helping them become good citizens. His two children attended Montgomery County public schools and graduated from the University of Maryland medical school at College Park.
And he said he wanted to do more – including providing better compensation (comparable to that in private industry), more training, and more respect for public school teachers. He has proposed stronger communication and closer links between schools and parents, especially ethnic parents. He emphasizes civic and character-building courses in kindergarten and elementary schools as a foundation for young children. And, he wants a better verification process for school entrants as a way of cracking down on illegal enrollment of students who don’t live in the county proper.
Tommy Le’s motto is “United we stand and together we build a better MCPS system.”
Nguyen Minh Chau, who aspires to the Maryland House of Delegates, is a familiar figure on the social and civic scene. She is a fourth-term elected Council member for the town of Garrett Park, and a representative of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and the Garrett Park Elementary School. Ms. Chau is also president and owner of NiMic Corporation, and a business executive with over 25 years experience in surveys, market research, information processing and management consulting. Her work, she says, has taken her into many fields, including education, employment, health, refugee resettlement, community development and inter-group relations.
Ms. Chau’s academic and civic achievements speak for themselves. A 1960 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she holds two masters degrees, one in business policy from Columbia University and the second in community adult education from the University of Michigan.
In 1968, Nguyen Minh Chau went to work with the George Washington University Social Research Group, directing nationwide surveys of public schools’ civil rights compliance. Later, she joined Opportunity Systems Incorporated (OSI), an African-American-owned consulting firm in Washington. She retired as OSI’s Executive Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer in 1999, after 28 years.
On the volunteer level, Ms. Chau was President of the Organization of Pan Asian American Women (Pan Asia) from 1990 to 1992. She represented Pan Asia on the National Committee on Pay Equity and the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. She also served on the Strategic Steering Committee of the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education, promoting public-private partnership to improve the education of linguistic-minority employees and their children.
Ms. Chau has not stopped advancing the causes she holds dear to her heart. She is a member of the Advisory Committee to the Maryland State Community Legacy Board, helping revitalize aging neighborhoods; the board of the Maryland Humanities Council; and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She
was a strong advocate for passage of the Maryland Senate’s SB 737, which increased support for adult education. For that, she was recognized in May by the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.
What does Ms. Chau wish to accomplish by seeking office? She says she will keep fighting for more funding for early childhood education and for the higher salaries and pensions for teachers needed to attract and retain teachers of top quality. In terms of economic development, she has proposed more adult literacy and job training courses to help workers advance. For mass transit and transportation, she says she yearns for a balanced program, including an environmentally and socially sound Inter-County Connector, and she wants to integrate pedestrian safety into all road and intersection improvements. Finally, Chau says she desires programs that will enhance public safety, and safe open spaces that will preserve citizens’quality of life.