THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Isolated in the ghetto of Chinatown for decades, it was not until 1994 — almost a century and a half after Chinese people arrived in large numbers for the Gold Rush — that a Chinese-American, Mabel Teng, was directly elected to citywide office in San Francisco, according to David Lee, a Political Science lecturer at San Francisco State University.
Mr. Lee’s ascension as mayor in 2011 was a landmark achievement for the Chinese community.
“The Chinese were never fully American, never fully part of San Francisco — that is until Ed Lee became mayor,” said Mr. Lee of San Francisco State, who is not related. “It was a symbol of true political acceptance.”
Mr. Lee met the mayor at a holiday party last week and had what in hindsight was a prescient conversation. The mayor voiced his concern that the younger generation of Chinese Americans were not getting involved in politics and that the older generation was leaving the scene, including Rose Pak, the political boss of Chinatown who died last year.
“His concern was the passing of the torch,” Mr. Lee said. “And then he passed away. It was kind of a cosmic message.”
Photo: Mayor Ed Lee. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office.