Jason Tengco with US president Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Photo courtesy of Filipino Young Leaders Program Instagram Page via ABS-CBN News
Culture

Who was Jason Tengco before he was appointed new White House liaison?

“Although I was once ashamed of my identity, I’ve truly come full circle and derive incredible strength and pride in being Filipino,” he once wrote in an essay. 
ANCX Staff | Jan 26 2021

The last US elections is considered a historic moment in American politics for many reasons. One of them is, despite the pandemic, it had the highest voter turnout in more than a century. Biden won largely via mail-in voting, amassing 8 million popular votes and 306 electoral votes.

One of the guys who led Biden’s campaign team is Filipino-American Jason Tengco. Jason is a Political Science graduate from UCLA and has a Master’s in Public Affairs from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Tengco served as the Chief of Staff for the Biden-Harris campaign’s Coalitions Department, and later on as the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Outreach Lead on the transition team.

“I already knew that we couldn’t afford another four years under the current president,” Tengco told Asian Journal in October 2020 about his decision to help in ensuring the victory of former vice president Biden. The growing protests on police brutality and killings of Black Americans across the US can’t be ignored, he said.

And so even if there was already a job waiting for him elsewhere, he put himself forward to be part of Biden’s campaign team. “Joe Biden really understands that we cannot take any community for granted, that we all need a seat at the table, that our issues matter, that our concerns matter, and that we need this coalition of voters not only to win in November, but also when we do win, this will be the governing body to help Joe Biden when he’s in the White House to really push his agenda,” Tengco told the news site.

The team of coalition leaders was amazingly diverse, representing different sectors and minority groups, he told the Asian Journal. This allowed them to reach out to as many voters as possible, despite language barriers. The campaign was largely done online due to the pandemic. 

 

White House appointment

First week into office, the Biden-Harris Administration is already making good in its commitment to build a federal workforce that reflects America’s diversity. Just recently, U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that more than 85% of the first week appointees are identified as people of color, women, or LGBTQ.

Included in the roster of these esteemed presidential appointees is Tengco who was officially named as OPM’s White House Liason. The OPM serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the federal government.

Prior to his appointment, Jason served as Executive Director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NFAA), a non-partisan and non-profit organization that promotes the welfare and well-being of the millions of Filipinos and Filipino Americans across the United States.

His NFAA profile also reveals his extensive exposure to governance and politics over the past decade—he served as National AAPI Outreach Director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs. Throughout his career, he has participated in fellowships with the New Leaders Council, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Center for Progressive Leadership, and Public Policy and International Affairs Program.

He has also served as a delegate to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Young Leaders Summit in Malaysia, and the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro) in the Philippines.

 

Proudly Pinoy

Tengco was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. In an essay he wrote a couple of years back for KQED, a media organization based in the US, he admitted to growing up with very little appreciation for his Filipino heritage.

“My parents never spoke to me in their native Tagalog tongue, and they didn’t teach me about my culture or history. Like many Asian American parents, they wanted nothing more than for me to study hard and to assimilate into American society,” he wrote.

He said it was only in college when he became more aware about history and culture, which prompted him to learn about his immigrant family’s history of struggle and sacrifice. “Over time, I felt empowered by a community of fellow second-generation Filipino American students. And rather than running away from our culture, we explored and embraced it together,” he shared.

“Fast forward more than ten years later, now you can find me actively involved in the community, playing Filipino-style mahjong with my family, or eating at Filipino restaurants throughout the Bay Area. I beam with joy seeing lumpia—Filipino egg rolls—being sold at my local Costco. Looking back, although I was once ashamed of my identity, I’ve truly come full circle and derive incredible strength and pride in being Filipino,” he said.