Sidelines and Sessions



Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 1:35 am

“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Organizing, John Delloro said once in class, is where the “story of me” meets the “story of us” to form the “story of now.” He also said that it was difficult to hate someone once you knew their story.

I’m not sure if I believe that completely, but you can certainly admire someone once you know their story – the stories I’ve heard since DC have convinced me of that.

In the months since junior year ended, I’ve had the good fortune of connecting (and in many cases, re-connecting) with people whose talent, character, and tenacity absolutely floor me. I knew some of these people well, others in passing, still others not at all. Yet all of them have strength I wish I had – and, during the first half of this quarter, pushed me to work harder.

I can’t go through all the names; it’d take forever. I will also not attach names to situations without prior permission.

One friend of mine, a brilliant young woman, has recent come out as a non-believer, moved away from devoutly Christian parents and is running a business.

Another, an undocumented immigrant, slept in the library because he couldn’t afford to live near campus, but was still organized and tenacious enough not only to thrive in all his classes, but sit on the board of directors of a national student organization.

Still another, currently using a wheelchair while struggling with a slow and painful recovery after spinal surgery, went out to DC to learn more about empowering people in similar conditions.

…and that’s just three.

Earlier this quarter, I was a commuter and a couch-surfer; something happened and left me cash-light and apartment-less. I panicked. I considered withdrawing for the quarter, perhaps permanently. Being broke is never easy, and it’s kind of periodic for my time at UCLA for me not to have enough something to go to school. But, I hung on.

Studying on the train was easy; on the bus, not so much. So, instead of reading, I told myself these stories, rolling the names in my head as if I was passing prayer beads.

Ashley. Diego. Gel. Ernesto. David. Shuchita. Max. Russell. Chris. Isaiah. Greg. Sarah. Alex. Catrina. Myron. Jan. Cris. Lizz. Audrey.

These last six months have been, in a word, insane. From leaving the Daily Bruin to getting swept up in USSA to speaking on the Lincoln Memorial in DC to sleeping on commuter trains to sitting in this messy, cozy apartment, I’ve have highs and lows like everyone.

But it’s the courage – Hemingwayesque courage – that my old and new friends have shown that keep me on the straight and narrow.


Day 28

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 9:27 pm

Jesus, have I let two whole weeks vanish without blogging? Sorry about that, Edren; more fool me. It’s good to be back and I will endeavor to maintain my schedule properly for the rest of the session.

DC’s seduced me briefly, but the whole “warm rain” today showed me how ruthless this town really is.

I can’t let a swamp the size of Fresno seduce me away from LA. Or you.



Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 11:18 pm

I’ve written about DREAM in previous posts; here’s a script and calling instructions if you’re interested:
Dial: 1-888-254-5087

“Hi I am calling to ask that Senator _______ to vote in favor of the DREAM Act. This bill will allow for thousands of undocumented youth to fix their status by getting a two year college degree or joining the military. This is an investment in our country’s future. Support the DREAM Act.”

Sen. Hatch of Utah
Sen. Bunning of Kentucky
Sen. Bennet of Utah
Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire
Sen. Bailey-Hutchison of Texas
Sen. McCain of Arizona
Sen. Voinovich of Ohio
Sen. Snowe of Maine
Sen. Collins of Maine
Sen. LeMeiux of Florida
Sen. Brownback of Kansas
Sen. Brown of Massachusetts

Sen. Hagan of North Carolina
Sen. Pryor of Arkansas
Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana
Sen. Conrad of North Dakota
Sen. Dorgan of North Dakota
Sen. Nelson of Florida
Sen. Baucus of Montana
Sen. Tester of Montana

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

– Samuel


DREAM now, ACT now.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 2:46 pm

Friends and Neighbors,

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that the DREAM Act will be part of a defense authorization bill which the Senate will vote on next week.

For those of you who’ve spent years waiting and who have been following the DREAM Act, no words are necessary.

For those of you new to my blog or unfamiliar with my political involvement, the DREAM Act is a bill that allows young immigrants of “good moral character” to become citizens much faster than the norm, in return for a college education or military service.

Put more technically, immigrant youth will be put on a 6-year path to citizenship, but they are required to finish a college degree or serve at least two years in the military and be honorably discharged in that time.

While this doesn’t untangle the understandably knotty problem of immigration and national security for our country, it does target one major problem: young people.

Young people, brought to this country against the law and against their will, have ended up socialized, educated, and trained as Americans. Deportation would leave them stranded in countries they don’t know and may not even understand.

Furthermore, many of these young people imbibe the American injunction to “better yourself” and find their way into colleges, since talent recognizes no borders. In fact, up to 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high school every year.

As undocumented immigrants, they do not qualify for financial aid or scholarships. Furthermore, after graduation, their only options are to work low-wage, potentially dangerous jobs in an underground economy, rather than taking jobs they’re educated and trained for and paying taxes accordingly.

DREAM will not give these students money, nor is it a “blanket amnesty” as many have feared. The requirements are strict, there are very clear time limits, and the provisions are reserved for those who can finish a college degree (without financial aid, as I mentioned earlier) or who serve in the US military.

I’ve written about undocumented before on other occasions and in other venues. I’ve said how I feel and what needs to be said; I invite you to look up more information.

For now, if you’re interested in passing DREAM, call the following Senators at their offices:


Senator Hatch:
Salt Lake: (801) 524-4380
Provo: (801) 375-7881
St. George: (435) 634-1795

Senator Bennett:
Salt Lake: (801) 524-5933
Provo: (801) 851-2525
St. George: (435) 628-5514


Senator Brown:

Boston: Phone: (617) 565-3170
DC: (202) 224-4543

Comment if you want a particular senator’s contact information and I will include it here.

Always good to hear from you; I apologize if my break into politicking seems distasteful, and thank you for bearing with me. I remain, as ever,

Respectfully yours,


UCLA bucket list

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 2:02 am

Just in case I forget. I will post revisions to this list, if necessary.


10/2, 10/7 #cantstopwontstop
Visit the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court
Visit Claudine at Dartmouth
Write five letters to five separate people from “home.”
Not miss a day of work.
Visit the Moellers.
Go to Maryland-College Park, visit Gem and get an application for j-school
Pwn face on my paper.
Write a list of for-sure job/paid internship/non-school fellowship applications, along with deadlines for the year. 10 application minimum.

Griffith Observatory
Driver’s license
Finish my major classes
play 3 hours of saxophone a week.
Simpang Asia
Have three summer applications submitted.

Jazz Reggae
Spring Sing
SPCN and After-party
Finish my minor
Get back at least 5 job offers that pay above minimum wage
Get accepted to grad school
Decide what to do next.

In general:
GRADUATE with a BA in history, minor in Asian American studies
GET, ACCEPT, and MAINTAIN gainful employment over the summer.
MAINTAIN my sessions w/ the Undeniables, keeping a 85% fidelity rate (once a day, every day = 100%)
take at least one class in astronomy
take at least one class in ecology or biology
take at least one class completely outside of my major or minor interests that isn’t one of the above two.
Get off campus and out of the Village at least two days every two weeks.

Tie up my business, say and do what needs to be said and done, and get a car.


Only One

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 4:08 am

Warning: Sentimentality ahead.

Dear You,

“Oh you are my only one…”

If I have “only one” in my life right now, then it must be the entire world. I’ve said I’m too busy enjoying the world to share it in a relationship, and this summer is witness to that.

Doors have opened since June, and, as much as I cringe at overused tropes, “this summer has changed my life.” I haven’t had any crash-conversion altar call type experiences this year; rather, the chords in my life have are resolving with the promise of more music to come. Harmony, rather than dissonance, is the theme this summer.

I’m not going to go in order; sometimes, the world makes sense out of order. Go figure.

UC Irvine is a lovely campus, those that “zot” on it, equally charming. While I remain a mystified newcomer to the arcana of student organizing, the enthusiasm and intelligence of UCSA delegates and UC students electrifies me a month after the fact. We’re in hard times and a hard place, but adversity spurs dormant power. I look forward to my last year at UCLA (and possibly in California) seeing what you can and will do for the Master Plan and California’s historic respect for public education.

I love UCLA more after guiding out-of-staters all over it in baking July heat. Again, while I participated with a tyro’s misdirected fervor, USSA’s National Student Congress was a “conference that changes lives.” UCLA delegates, thanks for giving me space to represent our campus. To everyone I met or interacted with there, thank you for your sincere support for education, regardless of our disagreements.

I met fantastic, enthusiastic people at UCSA Congress at Irvine and USSA Congress at UCLA. While I’m more than halfway out the door of my undergraduate life, hearing the ambitions, burdens, and stories of so many student activists, leaders, and organizers leave me heartened despite the trash talk about my generation’s fickleness, flightiness, and general superficiality. To those of the California, United States, and international student movements: y’all are an inspiration in all your idealistic, argumentative, sprawling joy, and I hope you wed your energy to warm hearts and cool heads. We’re inheriting a crueler world than our parents did and I look forward to building with you, “wherever you stand.”  Can’t stop, won’t stop!

To my Summer Activist Training family, there are no words good enough for you.  Thank you for trusting me with a bullhorn and letting me channel my inner James Brown down Pioneer Boulevard. Thank you for long nights of Mafia and sleeping bags and theory and practice and walking tours. Thank you for being you – fierce API people-loving people. May you find power and satisfaction and joy wherever you turn your hands, and I hope we spend years and years together building a world that our families and communities can flourish in. Makibaka, huwag matakot!

To my new(er) friends at UCLA, you’re amazing. Unlike the previous groups I’ve shouted out, we don’t have as much visible in common – maybe we don’t vote the same, maybe we don’t look the same, maybe I’ll never see you on a picket line or at a rally…but strong roots grow deep, unseen.. Thank you for the meals we’ve shared, the couches and the futons, the long nights and woozy mornings and cups of coffee and unpretentious, unassuming, occasionally bawdy, always fulfilling joy we’ve had this summer and these few years past. Mark your calendars: January 3rd. Go Bruins.

To those who I’ve met in the past two decades who don’t necessarily fit in any of these blocks – fear not. I know you, and miss you, and appreciate you.

And I can’t forget about the block – whether it’s North End ‘dino, Highland/Del Rosa, or the Adventists on the other end of Waterman. You, as much as anybody else in my life, are home, and it shows in how I approach the world. You forged my ambitions and my convictions at church, in school, at the mall, in the semi-misery of adolescence, and in the times I’ve returned.  Parkside and Richardson’s unquestioning faith in students bore fruit in my demanding nature towards my teachers. Powerhouse, I’ve seen 5 youth pastors come and go – my time passed, but I’m always in your corner. Cajon, I’ve missed you. San Gorgonio, I wouldn’t be at UCLA doing anything I do without you. Whether it’s Sprite at Friday vespers or rollin’ 20s over pizza in the wee hours of Sunday mornings, or wandering through the night in an unsuccessful search for banh mi,  you’ve been my rock for ages, where my convictions and ambitions were given shade and sharpened. As much as I don’t admit it, I wear you on my tongue among Bruins, among activists and musicians and writers, and I know I’ll carry an arrowhead in my heart to my deathbed. I’ll do my best to show DC what’s up, just as I have LA. G-mob? YOU KNOW!

And beneath and beyond all else…to my family. Words fail, for once. The writer in the family can’t really speak to it…because I myself don’t comprehend it all just yet.  You taught me values – education, self-sufficiency, merit, respect, the mediation between immigrant responsibility and American opportunity. For all our fraying and frustration, we hold together in a way that friends and onlookers envy and have always envied. You’ve been safe when nothing else has been, and your moral compass has provided me with the truest north I have. All I’ve done to this point has aimed to make you proud and comfortable in the home you’ve decided on.

All of you – every person in any of these paragraphs, any person I’ve met or will meet, any human being I’ve had contact with. You are my “only one.” You are the masks of God, continuously trying to enter my life, and you are worthy of the gifts you have gotten and will get. More than worthy, for is man not a little lower than the angels? I thank you for the times I’ve been allowed to be a blessing and I beg your forgiveness for the times when I haven’t been good to you or to myself with you.

Thank you for the doors you’ve closed or opened, thank you for the things said and unsaid, done and undone, for all of our lives – the universe – would be different without them. I wish you every joy possible and I leave you with what I’ve learned from all of you (and what I hope to do as I leave for the alabaster swamp we call the District of Columbia.)
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.”

-Ecclesiastes 9:10

So live it up, work, play and rest hard – and finish as satisfied and exhausted and as righteous as you can.

I’m in town until Saturday; after that, see you in three months.




Walk Down That Lonesome Road

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 5:10 am

“…all by yourself/don’t turn your head back over your shoulder…”
– James Taylor.

I’m not going to lie, there are days when I feel ridiculously inadequate; I’m pretty sure every human being has that problem. I just happen to have it at a top-30 university, which takes the discomfort to an even more epic level.

I mean, a “church cousin” and friend on Facebook is a near-legendary Adventist violinist wunderkind. At least three of my classmates are pageant winners, one possibly on a national level. At least two friends have their own Wikipedia articles.

This doesn’t, of course, figure in the constellation of talent that manifests on any college – the sign-toting anti-caging activist you brush hands with will be the first Green Party Congresswoman from California, you should probably buy stock in that computer company your earnest CS/EE major neighbor’s starting, and the  vivacious brunette who’s reading Gibbon in the back of your Socrates class will be Classics chair at Harvard in 2035.

Given, UCLA crawls with nascent titans of scholarship, athletics, and entertainment (given its location and reputation) but intellectualizing it doesn’t ease the occasional jarring sensation – oh dear God how the hell did I end up here? I don’t belong here.

And that’s not even talking about the people I already know! Web designers, computer programmers, would-be judges, politicians, scholars. My head swims every time I log onto Facebook.

Not that any of these people rest on or trade on their laurels (though they have every right to.) They are, without exception, charming, bright, engaging, and thoroughly pleasant human beings. And you know me – I’m not the type to drool (unless, of course, you happen to be Natalie Portman, in which case I plead guilty) but it can be godawfully intimidating.

But everyone’s journey is different. Remembering is hard, especially for closeted-overachiever me. While we can stop looking down (because elitism and snobbery are so obviously bad in our culture and get hooked to shame once pointed out and denounced) it’s much more difficult to stop looking up and feeling minuscule about how little you’ve done with your two decades.

(Seriously. I’m not a social entrepreneur, an artistic prodigy, or a genius. Go figure. Cal Newport, you were right – stick to one thing to build a reputation. Perhaps my inadequacy is tied to my scatterbrained-ness?)

But then I remember what I’m doing, and why. Asian scholars are relatively common; jokes aside, there’s plenty of us. Asian activists are rarer; Asian scholar-activists are rarer still – why do they have to be Adventist and trade unionists, too? And they want to go to law school? And write? Why, I don’t think it’s ever been done before. Because nobody’s been crazy enough to try.

Everybody has that kind of crazy. Embrace yours.

Walk down some lonesome roads, sometimes.


Joining the Undeniables

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — spsukaton @ 5:06 am

Dear y’all,

I’m joining The Undeniables, an online writing workshop, doing a session  in correspondence. I’ll be writing one letter a day, every day, for the next two months on this blog.

I can see your lips moving as your read this. Letters? Why? You do columns, you do press releases, you do articles and essays. Why letters? Why not something cool, like poems? Why not a novel? Or short stories?

Well, you know me. I jump around a lot. So I figured a letter’d be more apt – there’s only so much insanity you can allow into a letter, because of the necessary brevity of the thing. And what with e-mail and text messages, people are bemoaning the “death of the letter” so loudly and so often that I just want to show folks that tech is not the death of literacy. So here’s a dry run – a letter about my letters. I hope all’s well with you this summer, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Be good.




White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders seeks interns

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 10:22 pm

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is Seeking Interns for Fall 2010. The Initiative is responsible for the implementation of the President’s Executive Order 13515 dated October 14, 2009. Its purpose is to develop, monitor and coordinate executive branch efforts to improve the quality of life of AAPIs through increased participation in Federal programs. The Initiative is housed at the Department of Education, but represents a collaboration among many Federal agencies. Intern Duties – Perform research on and outreach to national and local AAPI organizations, elected officials, and ethnic media outlets -Conduct research on AAPI issue areas, including education, commerce, health, housing, labor and employment, community and economic development as they relate to AAPIs. Intern Qualifications -Currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate student (must be enrolled in school at least half time) -Great research skills -Experience working with AAPI communities or familiarity with the issues -Detail-oriented -Team player -Advanced knowledge in the use of various software and hardware applications to include but not limited to Microsoft Office; and other related office equipment, such as, copiers, fax, etc. Compensation -Interns are eligible for Transit Benefits, which cover the cost of commuting to and from work on public transportation -Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter with the subject “FALL INTERNSHIP 2010” to Shelly Coles at If interested, please forward a cover letter of no more than two pages, resume and documentation verifying your enrollment to Ms. Coles by August 11. Please be advised that if you are selected to serve as an Intern you will undergo a security background check.



Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 5:19 am

I think Feinstein would pay more attention if we lit up the phones on every single one of her four district offices and her office in DC. Here are the numbers and a potential script:

LA: 310-914-7300
SD: 619-231-9712
Fresno: 559-485-7430
SF: 415-393-0707

DC: 202-224-3841


Hello, my name is <first name, last name> I am registered to vote in <county in California> and I am a student at <school> in <city>. I was informed about the hunger strikers outside Senator Feinstein’s Los Angeles office and I support their demands. Please inform Senator Feinstein that I request that she produce a written and signed promise to:

1. co-sponsor the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act as a stand-alone bill
2. vote to push DREAM out of the Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor for a vote
3. Rally support for DREAM among her colleagues
4. vote to pass the DREAM Act into law as a stand-alone bill

The United States Student Association has decided to back DREAM for the second year running, and as a student, I hope that the Senator will keep my friends, classmates, and colleagues in mind. Please pass the Senator my greetings and thanks for her support of students so far, as well as my urgings for her support of DREAM. Thank you.

Thanks again for all your help!

If you don’t live in Cali, please feel free to tailor this to your Senators and Representatives.

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