US elections 2016: Meet Fil-Am Republican Matthew Alonsozana
With the 2016 national elections in the United States heating up, voters are turning their attention to who the frontrunners are in each party. Filipino Americans, despite being one of the largest Asian groups in the United States with 3 million people, still remain underrepresented.
WASHINGTON DC, USA – Matthew Alonsozana, 22, once thought that becoming a doctor was his purpose in life. That was until he realized his true calling: to be in politics, to be a public servant.
“It’s been one of the greatest blessings in my life to work with the Republican Party and be a part of what I believe to be the new wave of leadership in our country,” said Alonsozana, a Research Analyst at the Republican National Committee (RNC). He reports to the RNC Research Director.
Strange but true. Alonsozana told The FilAm Metro D.C. that growing up in a conservative Filipino household helped fuel his desire to go into politics.
“It’s really funny because our dinner table conversations span everything, from medicine, to politics in this country and to politics in the Philippines,” he recalled. “When I was coming off from high school and college I really thought which party best represents what I believe in, which party offers the best solutions and the best way to create opportunities in the same way that my grandparents and my parents were able to succeed here in America, when I think of the challenges that they have experienced in the Philippines, it is really the Republican Party that offered the best way to create opportunities for the country.”
A visit to the Philippines in 2012 opened his eyes to the social issues confronting Filipinos. He said that his three months at the Ateneo University as a Visiting Research Associate made a great impact on his decision to becoming politically engaged.
“During this whole time I was in Manila, I was not just stuck in Quezon City at the Ateneo campus. I went to different nearby cities like Tondo, all the way up to Marikina listening to barangay and council officials, really interacting with the local population,” he said. “At that time I don’t think I have fully grasped what it meant to be Filipino, but this experience of advocating for people in the Philippines really made an impression on me to a point where whatever I do, I want to make sure it will lead to creating opportunities for the people in the Philippines.”
His entry into the GOP began when he campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2012. As a graduate of Boston College, he felt a certain political kinship with Romney, who was Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007. To this day, he thinks Romney would have made a better chief executive and that President Obama “has not proven himself to be as good a leader as many people have expected.”
The oldest of four boys, Matthew learned that politics is the art of interacting with other people. The decision to be a registered Republican was his coming-of-age.
“There’s no clear pathway to getting into politics. The most important thing is learning to talk with people and listen to different people. Try out a lot of different things because the people that you are trying to serve are not just one type of people. The more you learn to do that, the more you’ll get better at it,” he said.
Like his parents Drs. Edgar and Gladys Alonsozana, both pathologists at Mercy Medical Center and Veterans Affairs Hospital in Baltimore, Matthew had dreamt of following in their footsteps. But it was while taking pre-med courses at Boston College that he became aware of the issues of the Asian American community.
“When I got to Boston College I really started getting involved socially and politically with the university and local organizations and help serve the Asian Americans,” he said. “I realized what was getting me out of bed in the morning was not necessarily my organic chemistry classes but going out to these events and meeting these people, talking with the people and advocating for them.”
Being a student of color set him apart, and Matthew knew how to work that to his advantage.
“Being Filipino was not a mark against me. It was actually something that strengthened me,” he said. “Because there was not many FilAms in where I grew up, it gave me a very different perspective than most of my colleagues. And because of that I can always contribute a different perspective to a conversation. I never felt as if being Filipino made me an outsider but I always felt that because I am Filipino, this gives me the ability to really interact and empathize with a lot of different types of people. And because of that culture I can easily slip in different groups and start up a conversation.”
Born and raised in Elkridge Maryland, Matthew wears a second hat for the GOP: He is also the campaign manager for Kevin Forrest Schmidt, who is running for a seat in Howard County’s Council District 1.
He believes Filipinos are a growing political force, but that more leaders need to rise up and be counted.
“We have to get more people involved. People need to get informed about the debate and at the same time they need to be more willing to take a harder position to take it publicly,” he said.
Since his involvement with the FilAm community, Mathew said he has made it his goal to serve. “I want to do that because I look at every member of the Filipino American community as an extension of my family. No matter where I am I will continue to advocate for my extended FilAm family or the community,” he said.
Alonsozana enjoys listening to classical music and cheers for his favorite Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens. He makes it a point to read two to three books a week. On his nightstand is a copy of Michael Barone’s “Shaping Our Nation,” which documents America’s migration history from the 18th century and how the influx of various ethnicities gave the country its distinct cultural diversity.
“The greatest thing that I do in my down time is really just relax with my family, especially with my two youngest brothers. It’s a very good feeling,” he said. – Rappler.com