Can a Progressive Vietnamese Candidate Win Public Office in OC?

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No, not Phu Nguyen, who's trying to pull an upset in a State Assembly District race against the reprehensible Allan Mansoor. The progressive Vietnamese in question is Bao Nguyen, who's running for a spot on the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees this fall.

We at the Weekly remember Bao well. Ten years ago, he and other UC Irvine students staged a brave protest at a Little Saigon rally for presidential candidate John McCain because of McCain's free use of the slur, "gook." They wore T-shirts emblazoned with "American Gook," a tactic that earned them national attention--and local scorn.

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Photo by Jack Gould, wherever he may be...
Nguyen, in 2000
From our dispatch of so long ago...

Within minutes, the protesters--no thanks to the uninterested Westminster police officers looking on--had been pushed back about 40 feet into oncoming traffic on Bolsa Avenue. Remarkably, Nguyen--though visibly shaken, his face splattered with spit--stood dignified beyond his years. He renewed his call for calm, acceding to the crowd's demand to take his "American Gook" T-shirt off.


"Dear people, we love our country like you do. We hate communism like you do," he said in perfect Vietnamese. "But we don't agree with the word 'gook.' It's wrong. It's hurtful. People need to be educated about that."


Nguyen would go on to be featured in Saigon USA, a great 2003 documentary that used the Hi-Tek protests as a starting point to examine the clash of generations between older and younger Vietnamese. He has spent the last couple of years in various progressive and plain-ol' municipal efforts--read his Facebook page, and interested parties can attend his kickoff fundraiser this weekend.

I've spoken to Bao over the years, and it's been a pleasure to see him mature. Better yet, he speaks English, Vietnamese and Spanish fluently. Will the Democratic Party send the necessary resources his way, or let another wonderful candidate flounder in the sun?


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