Immigrants, Advocates, and Fighters: Tram Nguyen and Juana Matias Visit Andover

The childhoods of state representative Juana Matias and legal aid attorney Tram Nguyen are almost mirror images of each other. They immigrated to Massachusetts in 1992, and both did so at age five. After graduating college, both women decided to start a career in public service.

Now, Matias and Nguyen are running for office. Matias is currently running to be the U.S. Representative for the Third Congressional District. Nguyen is running for State Representative of the 18th Essex District, representing the constituents of Andover, North Andover, Tewksbury, and Boxford.

On Tuesday night, Matias and Nguyen spoke at an event co-hosted by Alianza Latina, Out of the Blue, Women’s Forum, Asian Women Empowerment, PA Dems, and Asian Society. Out of the Blue board member Solby Lim ’18 explained how the goals of these clubs paralleled those of both politicians.

“I feel like a lot of the values that they’re talking about… they want us to do that here. We’re doing the same thing. We’re trying to learn the same concepts, and just for them to reiterate that in their own way, I think it’s really great because I can see students seeing themselves and saying, ‘Hey, being active is really awesome, and you should do this more.’ For me, it was about getting students interested and involved and seeing them have questions is really awesome,” said Lim.

Matias described her campaign as a means to positively and actively change people’s lives. According to Matias, her campaign is focused on improving the lives of the people in her district.

“This is not about any politician or any one person. This is about making sure that we’re electing people who really represent what we need in public office, and I’ve demonstrated that with my commitment, and I’m looking forward to continuing to harness and gain the support of voters across the Third District,” said Matias in an interview with The Phillipian.

Similar to Matias, Nguyen noted how her campaign aimed to serve and better the lives of locals and those in need.

“I love seeing my work have an impact on the people, and this is why I do what I do. I have been very passionate about working for individual clients and making sure they have the safety that they need, they have the status that they need to feel safe and that they’re not exploited, et cetera,” said Nguyen in an interview with The Phillipian.

Nguyen continued, “My work in advocacy has really inspired me to now run for office so I can work on that more exclusively to make sure that I can push forward policies and bills that improve the quality of life of all the residents of Massachusetts.”

Audience member Maya Shkolnik ’21 brought her passion for feminism and equality to the event and enjoyed hearing the two women talk about what they love doing most. Shkolnik also felt that the emphasis that Matias and Nguyen placed on the value of listening was a notable lesson.

“They’re really amazing and they talked a lot about what it means to be a good listener and how to improve your conversations with people in daily life… Make sure you understand who you’re talking to and stuff like that. I wanted to come because I love learning about feminism and empowering women in politics and I wanted to see their views,” said Shkolnik.

Nguyen shared the political passions that drive her to do good for her community. One of the most timely of these values is an emphasis on improved gun laws to ensure the safety and well-being of her constituents.

“I’m certainly passionate about making sure that all hardworking residents of our district have the opportunities to live, work, and raise a family here in the district. I want to make sure that our students, our schools are fully funded, and that work on common sense gun laws to makes sure that when parents drop their students off at school, their sense of safety is still there. And I believe that as a state, we lead in so many different things, and gun safety should be one of them, and especially at this moment in time,” said Nguyen.

Lim also mentioned how many Andover students were passionate about gun control and was inspired by the passion and message that Nguyen and Matias espoused.

“I really felt that there was so much to do that I have to reach out to so many people, but there are a lot of students who are really passionate about gun violence on this campus. Just reaching out to students, saying, ‘hey is anyone interested in this, have you seen the national walkout page?’ Just sharing things on your class page, I found that is a really great way to reach students, so that’s coming up, and a lot of people are invested in that, and I know a lot of faculty are invested in that as well,” said Lim.

Matias stressed that these the future is in the hands of young people like Andover students, who have a unique opportunity to interact with people from many different backgrounds. She hopes that this leads to positive change for the future of the country.

“You’re here not just to learn in the classroom. Learn from one another. You all have come from different backgrounds, different cultures, and experiences, and your experiences can help mold the way other people look at the world… You guys are the future. You’re the ones that are going to really make sure that this country is moving in the right direction, so continue to embrace one another,” said Matias during her presentation.