Asian Chamber Honors West Sacramento Mayor

SACRAMENTO — Sage retrospect and optimistic forward thinking abounded at the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce’s (SACC) largest fundraiser, held Feb. 4 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Downtown Sacramento.

The SACC’s 17th annual installation and awards fundraising dinner centered around swearing in new board members, awarding locals and businesses who have supported the Sacramento business community, and honoring an active community leader.

Honoree West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon Photo by Jessica Lum

West Sacramento mayor, Filipino American Christopher Cabaldon, held the honor this year.

The SACC is the largest ethnic chamber of commerce in Northern California, according to SACC President and CEO Patricia Fong Kushida. It was formed to grow the local economy and provide resources and support for small local businesses.

Amidst the harsh economic climate, the SACC has been a beacon of hope to the community, said Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Board President Genevieve Shiroma. “You’ll see through tonight’s dinner just how vibrant they’ve been able to remain throughout this desperate [time]. Sacramento is now facing double digit unemployment.”

And in spite of the tough statistics, the SACC board hailed Cabaldon as an inspiring local leader.

“Christopher Cabaldon is really instrumental in jumpstarting West Sacramento’s economic development,” Kushida said. “He’s been a huge champion to develop policies around economic development that’s helped to attract and retain businesses in the region.”

Past recipients of the honor include California state Senator Darrell Steinberg and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento).

Cabaldon, who has been mayor since 1996, worked on several community projects, including some that have physically changed the skyline of West Sacramento: the addition of Raley Field, the home of the River Cats minor league baseball team, and the completion of the energy-efficient California State Teachers’ Retirement System building.

“He’s much more than the mayor,” said Shiroma. The mayor also championed educational and environmental issues in the region, and is currently working on a railcar system for the city.

“It just shows that within our Asian Pacific Islander community, we have a leader who is making such a tremendous difference in lives of everyone within our area,” Shiroma added. “Because of his core values: his commitment to the community, deep appreciation for family, and his tireless work ethic, it was just obvious that he should be awarded this year.”

Actor and activist George Takei appeared as the guest speaker, recalling leaders throughout his life, from his earliest memories in an American concentration camp during World War II, to his job as an actor on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in “Star Trek.”

“The defining experience in my life, although I was a child, was the internment of the Japanese Americans. I really started to ask questions about it and then examining and researching about the internment when I was a teenager,” Takei said. Growing up, he turned to his father for insight and advice.

“My father told me that both the strength and the weakness of American democracy is that is in the fact that it is a peoples’ democracy, and it can it can be as great as the people can be but it can be also as fallible as people are,” Takei said. “He felt it was vitally important for good people to be actively engaged in the political process.”

Takei also praised “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry for being a leader far beyond his time. Roddenberry was frustrated with the fact that television did not reflect the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s. “He was a visionary… saw [television] as a much more powerful and rich medium,” Takei added. “He used science fiction and metaphors.’”

Roddenberry also dared to place such a diverse crew on the bridge — including a Russian ensign, an African American communications officer and an Asian American navigator, Takei said. He noted that  while at the time, such relations were rare, we now live in a time in which Roddenberry’s vision has become a reality.

“Change agents are the people who lead society,” Takei said with a nod to Mayor Cabaldon.

Other event speakers reflected on the past year, echoing a feeling of economic hardship, but most shared hope towards the future, Cabaldon said following the event.

“I think that last year in 2009 for a lot of folks, they got the air punched out of them and you could see this was sort of like breathing the oxygen back and saying ‘okay, lets get back in the fight.’ They can do great things,” Cabaldon added. “We still have so many great assets in this region and an amazing breed of energized people.”

“To hear all night long the sense of optimism and purpose and vision that people have — this was proof that regional leaders are really the future of Sacramento,” Cabaldon said.

More than 600 members from the business community and local and statewide civic leaders attended, Kushida cited. Notable attendees included Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilmember Rob Fong.

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