On Message: The Republican National Committee's Vision for Expanding the Party and Reaching out to Asian Pacific Islander Americans: An Interview with Mina Nguyen, Director of Government Affairs at the Republican National Committee

By Ku, James | Asian American Policy Review, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

On Message: The Republican National Committee's Vision for Expanding the Party and Reaching out to Asian Pacific Islander Americans: An Interview with Mina Nguyen, Director of Government Affairs at the Republican National Committee


Ku, James, Asian American Policy Review


Introduction

The following interview took place in Cambridge, Mass., on 4 March 2005, on the eve of the annual Asian American Policy and Law Conference at Harvard University. Ms. Nguyen discussed her jump from management consulting to politics and her rapid rise within the Republican Party. She also shared her opinion of why the Republicans won in 2004 and why their message will continue to connect with the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community.

Interview with Mina Nguyen

AAPR: Congratulations on your new position at the Republican National Committee (RNC). Can you share with us what your role will be?

NGUYEN: I am now the director of government affairs for the Republican National Committee. My responsibilities include ensuring that the RNC provides services and support to Senate and House members on the Hill and pushing for the right legislative issues.

I'm also responsible for the business community, which includes working with trade associations and corporations to help them participate in civic participation programs.

AAPR: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in politics and how you got to this point?

NGUYEN: My first exposure to D.C. was during high school through a student program, one of those high school presidential classroom-type programs. They had us meet members, visit memorials, and provided an introduction to the legislative branch of the government. I was really fascinated by the city and the complex processes in place. I got my official start by completing a UC Berkeley fellowship in D.C. I interned for my congressman and conducted research for a paper I was writing on the organizational structure of the juvenile justice system.

Then in 2001, I came out to work at the U.S. Department of Labor for Secretary Elaine L. Chao. My plan was to only stay for one year and then head off to get my MBA. Previously, I had worked at Accenture for close to three years, but I thought I'd come work for the secretary as she transitioned into her new post; however, I ended up staying for two years.

Shortly after I was accepted to business school, the Bush campaign offered me a position to serve as the National Business Coalition director, which I accepted. After the campaign ended, I thought I'd be done with politics for a while. But then the opportunity to work for Ken Mehlman, who is the current RNC chairman, presented itself, and I accepted because he is a great manager, strategic thinker, and visionary leader.

AAPR: On the subject of the campaign, tell us more about what you did for the campaign last year, and how your previous experiences prepared you. What were the biggest lessons you learned?

NGUYEN: As the National Business Coalition director, I made sure all small business, businesses, and everybody that was in the business realm were involved in some way or another. I also covered the northeast region, as well as Asian Americans, and "W Stands For Women." I had help in every area, so I was able to focus a lot of time on Asian outreach.

I think my business experience helped a lot because it made me think about, "How do I measure success? What's my plan? How will I execute?" and again, "How do I measure success?" You always ask that question. A lot of times in politics, you don't ask that question. We all had business plans with clear goals and execution strategies. Every two months, we would read our plans again and make sure we were going in the right direction.

Every week, we also had accountability meetings to go through how many volunteers we recruited, what we've done, etc. There was a great deal of accountability, which was very helpful and allowed us to monitor our progress.

AAPR: What role did the Asian American community play in the Bush campaign? What was their strategy with them? What mistakes were made? And generally, how did it work out? …

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