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#MondayMotivation: Madeline Ong-Sakata

As a young girl, Madeline Ong-Sakata learned early on how the work of one individual can change the lives of many. Madeline grew up watching her father, Wing F. Ong, the first Asian American elected to Arizona’s legislature, work to change the system and, more broadly, work to change lives.   

Wing F. Ong worked to get Asian Americans assimilated and accepted in America. Ong helped start the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1937 and worked to end discrimination toward Asians; Ong created a Fourth of July celebration in Phoenix, still celebrated today, proving Asian loyalty and Americanism to the public.

Organizations help make it better for Asian Pacific Americans. They bring awareness to the public and change their ignorance to enlightenment.”

Although no longer living, Ong’s legacy and work remain alive and well in his daughter, community activist Madeline Ong-Sakata. The executive director of the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce, Madeline also was involved the Arizona Asian American Association (4A), a member of the Japanese American Citizens League, a member of the Pacific Rim Advisory Council, the editor and publisher of the Asian SuNews, a member of the Asian American Citizens Alliance.

Of the organizations in which Madeline was involved she said, “Organizations help make it better for Asian Pacific Americans. They bring awareness to the public and change their ignorance to enlightenment.”     

Madeline also worked to bring about awareness and change to institutions and politics. She has worked for many years to get Arizona State University to render their Asian Pacific American Studies (APAS) Program into a degree. Right now, APAS is offered as a certificate. Madeline has also worked hard to get the government to display Chinese artifacts dug up under Phoenix’s U.S. Airways Arena (now known as Talking Stick Arena). Her fight in both areas is still not over.

Admitting a great deal of change has come about since her father’s passing, Madeline said it is a constant battle—a battle she hopes more young people will take interest in. Madeline created an internship program with this in mind, where youngsters experience first-hand about community outreach.

I want the general public to look upon Asian Pacific Americans as Americans, something we are still not perceived as.

From her involvement with the Asian SuNews, a newspaper she created roughly ten years ago, to the Asian Chamber of Commerce to the Lunar New Year Banquet she coordinated every year, in addition to Asian Pacific Night with the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Madeline has made headway for the Asian American community in Arizona. Where her father left off, Madeline picked back up.

“I want the general public to look upon Asian Pacific Americans as Americans, something we are still not perceived as,” Madeline said about her mission for progression. “I have learned Asian Americans cannot do it alone,” she said. “When you seek other groups, minority or not, to help you, you get results.”

Although Madeline has a hand in numerous business and political organizations, she first and foremost was a mother and grandmother. Constantly on the go, Madeline’s life’s work was aimed not only to better the community in general, but also that of her children and her grandchildren.  “I want to retire and enjoy my children and grandchildren without worrying about their future.” May her legacy live on with all of us.