By Kenny Sui-Feng Yim
Sen. William “Mo” Cowan spoke about diversity on Dec. 9 as part of the Community Conversation speaker series, co-sponsored by Gov. Deval Patrick’s Asian American Council and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
Attendees included prominent local politicians of color, including Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, Boston Ward Five Republican committee member Richard Pien and James Chan, constituent service representative for District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan.
While Cowan is neither a native Bostonian nor of Chinese descent, he advocates for democratic engagement across the aisle, bridging communication to “everyone, everywhere.” Born in rural North Carolina, Cowan had dreamed of becoming a physician. Instead, he landed in corporate law and replaced Secretary of State John Kerry as senator in 2013.
In his speech, Cowan explained his reasons for working in private practice before being named by Patrick to public office. According to Cowan, Congress needed to avoid operating in silos and stay focused instead on the collective American dream.
Cowan also expressed great admiration for President Barack Obama. Cowan’s grandmother, who lived during the Jim Crow era, said on Election Day 2008 that she never believed she would see the day an African American would become president. As hopeful and symbolic as Obama’s presidency is, he noted that nothing is perfect, but hoped Obama would not be the last minority president.
The theme of Cowan’s speech was how closing the education gap was the biggest civil rights fight of our time. According to Cowan, there needs to be more representation of senators of color — currently there are six — across the political spectrum. Instead of division, politics needs to promote diversity. He acknowledged that there is a tendency to put outsized responsibility on those who looked like us to solve everything. Yet this self-proclaimed poor kid from the South has done what he has set out to do: “Engaged with real people in real time.”
The Community Conversations series strive to provide the Asian American community with opportunities to learn about what the speakers do and their thoughts on various issues affecting the Asian American community.
This post is also available in: Chinese