With this year’s midterm elections taking place on November 6, candidates for Massachusetts state representative are choosing to advertise their campaigns in through multiple outlets. Tram Nguyen, a candidate for the 18th Essex District, shared her campaign on the Andover campus last week through storytelling.
The hour-long event was hosted by Asian Society and Asian Women’s Empowerment (AWE) in the Underwood Room on October 19. According to Hazel Koh ’21, Co-President of AWE, inviting Nguyen to campus gave students the opportunity to learn more about her and her campaign as an Asian-American candidate.
Koh said, “The board members and our two faculty advisors [Lilia Cai-Hurteau, Instructor in Chinese, and Coreen Martin, Instructor in English], helped coordinate this event, since the faculty advisors personally knew Nguyen. We brought [her] to campus, so the students would know what she stands for, the importance of having an Asian woman candidate in our community, and how we can help her. We believed that it would great for someone like Nguyen to come to campus.”
The evening began with an introduction of Nguyen’s personal background, followed by her explaining core policies and ideas of her campaign. Following her talk, the audience engaged with Nguyen by asking questions.
Having grown up in the Merrimack Valley area, Nguyen shared her past struggles as a Vietnamese-American immigrant and as a member of the working class.
Nguyen said, “When coming to the United States when I was five years old, I did not know a single word of English. I had to learn and adjust to life here. My parents also didn’t know English as well. They had to work two to three jobs to provide better opportunities for us.”
Nguyen continued, “As I grew up in Lawrence, I realized how important the school system is. Despite the difficulties, my teachers guided me, allowing me the first one in my family to attend a college. After college and law school, I chose to return to my community in order to deal with the issues that many citizens face like I did.”
Ryan Mai ’21, an attendee of the event, said he found Nguyen’s talk to be especially relatable.
Mai said, “As a Vietnamese-American, I embrace my American identity while also recognizing where my roots come from. I believe there should be more opportunities for people from minorities to pursue their goals and move forward.”
According to Nguyen, her previous job as a legal attorney for vulnerable citizens was a helpful experience in preparing for the state representative election.
Nguyen said, “I am not a politician. Instead, I am an advocate. I have been advocating for so many people over the years, and that is because I see what takes to work harder, to have resources, to succeed. As I worked with excluded members of the community and helping them receive their benefits, I needed to help them speak up. That is why my job as an attorney was helpful in transferring to a state representative candidate. Due to my experience, I know that it takes some time for people to put their daily lives apart and think about things that concern them the most.”
Nguyen also emphasized the need of communication within the federal level. According to Nguyen, dialogue can increase awareness around certain issues. In addition, Nguyen explained that the government needed to bring in new perspectives to representing people.
Nguyen said, “In doing the work as a legal attorney, I realized what was needed in the government is someone who is willing to stand up for the people and brings new voice to the system. Given everything that is happening in the federal level has lack of dialogue, I want to make sure that we are talking with each other in the state level, because that is how you know the real issues.”
The core theme of Nguyen’s campaign is equal voice and communication made by all citizens. During the lecture, Nguyen’s explained how all of her policies correlate with the single idea.
“The towns of the district [Andover, North Andover, Lawrence, and Boxford] are apart, and the communities are very different. Because of that, it was great getting to know different people by door-knocking and talking issues that they care about. This campaign is about how I want to work with the people to build a stronger, brighter, and more equal community,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen continued, “It is crucial to talk with people who disagree with me, because they bring up points that I would have never thought about. I want to make sure that our communities are safe from violence, drug abuse, and that we have equal rights for everyone in our society. We can actually come to a compromise and work together to move things forward.”
At the end of her talk, Nguyen emphasized the importance of community engagement and personal advocation.
Nguyen said, “Everyone can help out, even in a small way. What I want people to take from my campaign and myself is that anything is possible, [and] you need to be civically engaging. You need to speak up and fight for what is important. I want them to take that as an example for themselves.