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The City of Portland, Oregon

Community & Civic Life

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Jennifer Truc Ly Le, of the Vietnamese American Community

Jennifer Truc Ly Le profile photoJennifer Truc Ly Le is a Portlander and member of the Vietnamese American community. Jennifer shared her thoughts regarding the code change process at our April 30th Multilingual Community Connections Gathering. We asked her to share her thoughts on civic engagement with us.

Which community conversation or gathering did you attend?

I attended the Vietnamese community conversation at the IRCO Asian Family Center.

What are some of the ways that you have already engaged with Portlanders?

I go to as many community events as I can. This includes a lot of Vietnamese community events, and church events at St. Andrew Dung Lac and Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Church. As a Portlander, I try to find different ways to get more people to understand the Vietnamese American community here in Portland because there are a lot of different perspectives on who the Vietnamese people are, and what the community is about.

A lot of people still associate what they know about Vietnamese through the Vietnam War or how popular Pho is now. I do my best to understand other communities and their stories by engaging in conversations with people who are different than me. This also helps me share my story so that others can understand more about the Vietnamese community as well. 

What do you want to make sure we include, that we don’t miss through this process?

Through this process, I hope that you can help get more people to engage in this process of changing the code. The Vietnamese people that were at the conversation that night are just a small percentage. I would recommend going to the places that have large gatherings such as churches, temples/pagodas, and big community events. A lot of the Vietnamese elders weren’t used to giving their opinion the night of the conversation, and it’s because they never really got that freedom to speak when they were in Vietnam. They don’t understand civic engagement because most of their mindset is still in survival mode. Making a living to raise their kids so that their kids can have a brighter future then they had. They don’t have “time” to think about politics and civic duty. That conversation must change, and an educational on civic life and how the city works may be a better first step than having them come to give their opinion.

What is civic engagement to you?

Civic engagement to me is being aware what is happening in your community. It is important to have a healthy relationship with the government on all levels, because being afraid or not caring what they are doing doesn’t help anyone. No matter if we are aware as citizens or not, our government still makes decisions every day that affect our lives. To be engaged means you speak up when something isn’t right or that you don’t see it is fair.

Civic engagement is giving our feedback to the government because we’re all human, and we make mistakes. That’s why there needs to be a check and balance system in our government system to make the people of our community more aware what is going on in their own backyard.