From Cal to the Capital, How Ben de Guzman ’94 Stays Connected

Quick facts about Ben de Guzman

Degree: BA, Spanish and mass communications

Currently: Director, Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Washington, D.C.; member, Pilipino American Alumni Chapter

What was your life like at Cal?

I fully immersed myself into campus life and am glad that UC Berkeley has top-caliber offerings in so many different arenas. In the classroom, I was try-lingual: I “tried” to speak English, Spanish, and Tagalog. I took a two-year course at Berkeley and got accepted into a language immersion program in the Philippines. I was able to explore my identity through organizations like the Pilipino American Alliance, where I learned to be a student organizer and fight for racial and educational equity issues. As an athlete, I competed as a member of the Cal Men’s Volleyball Club and ran the volleyball program at Cal Intramural Sports. I am eternally grateful for the wide array of experiences Cal gave me.

What are you working on currently?

As the director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, I serve on the Cabinet of the Mayor of our nation’s capital. Our agency is the largest of its kind in the country, centering Asian American and Pacific Islander residents with culturally and linguistically competent services. Our focus is to ensure that all of our residents, regardless of their citizenship status or the languages they speak, are able to take full advantage of the District’s COVID-19 recovery and relief services and programs. I also volunteer with the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. After their status as US veterans was revoked in 1946, Filipino World War II soldiers who served under US command achieved two significant victories that bookended former president Obama’s administration. Created in 2009, the Filipino World War II Veterans Equity Compensation Fund provided economic relief to these veterans and in 2017, they finally received recognition from the US government when they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the legislature can bestow on an individual or group.

How do you tap into your Cal alumni network?

As someone who left California shortly after graduating, connecting with alumni chapters and college friends has always been important to me. Supporting alumni chapters has been a way for me to give back and get in touch with like-minded people that would become dear friends. When the Cal Alumni Club of Washington, D.C. won Chapter of the Year in 2009, I started our intramural volleyball team, which competed with other alumni teams in the area. I’m an active member of the Pilipino American Alumni Chapter, and as part of the largest incoming classes of Filipino Americans who entered Cal in the late 80s and early 90s, our generation is providing the bulk of the chapter’s leadership and ensures long-term sustainability by building a larger intergenerational network of alumni.

 


CONNECT WITH THE PILIPINO AMERICAN ALUMNI COMMUNITY

Founded in 1987, the Pilipino American Alumni Chapter’s mission is to advance the needs of the Pilipino American community at Cal by providing opportunities for meaningful and lifelong engagement.

For more information, follow the Pilipino American Alumni Chapter on Facebook.

CONNECT WITH CAL ALUMNI OF WASHINGTON, D.C.

One of the largest Alumni Chapters outside of California, the Cal Alumni of Washington, D.C. chapter brings together the estimated 10,000 Cal Bears in the National Capital Region, which encompasses the D.C. metropolitan area of southern Maryland & northern Virginia. ​The chapter organizes more than 100 events a year, including opportunities related to social and career networking, lifelong learning, community service, professional development, athletics, and student outreach.

For more information, visit dccalalumni.org.

Ben de Guzman | Image courtesy of Ben de Guzman

Comments

The U.S. government’s denial of military benefits and immigration & citizenship privileges to Filipino war veterans ranks with Japanese American concentration & internment as among the grave racial injustices of WWII. Restoring such recognition was a decades-long fight, and Ben de Guzman deserves kudos for his leadership, strategic vision, and tenacity in finally getting our elder veterans what they deserved. So proud of you, Ben, and I hope all is well with you in D.C.
Well done Ben!!
Go Ben and Go Bears!
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