Filipino Americans make up the third largest subgroup of Asian Americans today, with millennials comprising nearly a quarter of this population. And while there about 4 million Filipino and Filipino Americans living in the U.S today, this population is underrepresented in political and leadership roles. Brendan Flores, National Chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations
joins Robert Traynam to discuss the welfare and well-being of Filipino Americans and efforts to strengthen the personal and professional development of young Filipino Americans.
Traynham: According to the U.S. Census, there are nearly four million Filipinos living in the United States, making it the third-largest Asian-American subgroup. And nearly 1/4 of this population is between the ages of 18 to 34. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Filipino Americans are underrepresented at the highest levels of government. Brendan Flores, national chairman of the National Federation of Filipino Americans joins me to discuss developing the next phase of Filipino leaders. Brendan, welcome to the program.
Flores: Pleasure to be here.
Traynham: So let´s talk for a new moments about your mission and your scope. Specifically, what do you do?
Flores: Yeah, so NaFFAA´s vision is to serve as the voice of all Filipino Americans living in the United States. Really focusing on three primary areas -- leadership development, civic engagement, and national advocacy.
Traynham: As I´ve mentioned a few moments ago, it´s nearly 4 million Filipinos living in this country. I´m not sure many people that are watching this program at home, or perhaps on their smart device, know that. Why is that the case? Why don´t we know that?
Flores: You know, primarily, I think it´s because Filipinos, it´s a very unique culture, right? I mean, 300 years under the Spanish rule, 50 years with the Americans, and then, the Japanese occupied it. So there´s that regionalistic mentality. I mean, there´s over 7,000 islands in the Philippines. So Filipino Americans are pretty much following their roots in the Philippines, where it´s very much, again, I don´t want to say the word "divided," but in silo, so to speak.
Traynham: So how do you create a pipeline, Brendan, of leaders at all levels of government, quite frankly, whether it´s a the city and county level, but also at the federal level, so that people can say, "You know what, people that look like me are representing me in the U.S. Congress, and the mayor´s office and so forth?
Flores: Well, it starts with our young leaders. And you mentioned earlier today, there are about 4 million Filipino Americans living in this country and about a million of them, or 25%, are the youth, between the ages of 18 to 34. So what we did in our organization is we launched a program called "Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration Ambassadors Program." And that´s to really strengthen the leadership development of our young folks.
Traynham: And how do you find these individuals? Do they apply through an application process? Do you go across the country and cherry pick these individuals? In other words, how do you create that farm team, if you will?
Flores: Yes, absolutely. So we have 13 regions across the country. And what we try to do is work with out local officers or region chairs. And then, we have a selection process to ensure that every region is represented across the country.
Traynham: I noticed, with interest, California Assemblymember Bob Bonta, who´s a democrat from Oakland -- I assume that´s just north of San Francisco is the first and only Filipino member of the California State Legislature. That´s good and bad. The good thing is that you have a trailblazer. The bad thing about it is he´s the only one.
Flores: Yeah, you´re right.
Traynham: Your response to that.
Flores: Well, you know, and I think that´s the reason why we have to educate our fellow Filipino Americans. The reality is we have launched a program called "FilAM Vote." Because we, in 2016, only 50% of Filipino Americans registered. As a matter of fact, 59%...
Traynham: That registered?
Flores: ...registered. And only 50% of them actually voted. So we have a significant opportunity. So if we want to see somebody that looks like me, we need to educate our people through our FilAM Vote program.
Traynham: Brendan, I´m curious. Why do you think the voter rate -- I mean, in some ways, that´s kind high. But in other ways, it´s also kind of low. Depends on how you look at that number. How do you raise that number? That´s really the question.
Flores: It´s really focusing on the program that we launched. It´s the FilAM Vote by NaFFAA. And it´s focusing on voter education and voter registration.
Traynham: We got about 45 seconds left, Brendan. I noticed with interest that you´re young. And as I understand it, that you are the youngest person to hold that position. As I mentioned a few moments ago, Brendan is the national chairman of the organization. I would suspect that you´re probably, maybe, 21 or 22. But perhaps, maybe I´m wrong.
Flores: Nice try. 32!
Traynham: That´s still fairly young. And I also think it´s interesting that you´re, as I mentioned before, that you´re the youngest to hold this position. I assume the previous occupants of your position were baby boomers and so forth?
Flores: Traditionalists, yes.
Traynham: So clearly, you´re practicing what you preach by passing the baton to the next generation of leaders.
Flores: Absolutely. And I think there´s a misconception that you have to be well-established to run a non-profit organization, or you have to have a good job. But reality is, we all can make a difference. It´s about having the passion, the drive to make a difference. And that´s what we´re trying to accomplish.
Traynham: Thank you very much for joining us, Brendan Flores. The National Federation of Filipino American Association´s, the national chairman. Thank you very much for joining us.
Flores: Pleasure being here. Thank you.
Traynham: And of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham. Have a great day. Bye-bye.