Attorney General Speaks at Launch of Convenience Store Association
The Asian American Convenience Store Association (AACSA) held its inaugural session at the Indian Professional Network (IPN) monthly meeting at the Impact Conference Center, Global Mall on Thursday, August 25th. The President of AACSA Upendra Patel welcomed all in the packed hall and thanked the Guest Speaker, Attorney General, Georgia, Mr. Thurbert Baker for gracing the event with his presence.
He further recognized dignitaries including Bhavna Chikhaliya, the former Minister of Tourism, Culture and Parliamentary Affairs; Kenneth Cutshaw, Honorary Consul for India in the U.S.; Chandler Sharma, Board Director, American United Bank; and representatives of various other organizations. He said that AACSA was long overdue and that its formation had been conceived for some time by former President of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), Mike Patel. AACSA was formed to present a united front for collective bargaining and to redress member's problems. The object was not to compete with other similar associations or to intimidate the system but rather to educate its members as has been done by AAHOA. Mike reassured Mr. Baker that AACSA intends to work with the Government to make Georgia a better place to live and work in.
Mike Patel said that it is fitting that the eminent Attorney General Thurbert Baker is present at the inaugural session of AACSA. He complimented AACSA Chairman Kenny Patel, Vice-Chairman Dilip Patel and Secretary Harshad Patel for assuming the responsible posts in AACSA and wished them well. He recounted the growth of AAHOA since it was founded twelve years ago. Commenting on the reason behind the Convenience Store association, Patel said, "As the mainstream American community was not familiar with the culture, traditions and language of the new entrants into the hotel industry, the latter were subjected to discrimination and unfair practices. AAHOA began to educate its members and also fought for justice and fair play in hotel franchising. Today even the White House recognizes AAHOA. Indian-Americans are major franchisees owning 65% of the economy hotels. The next generation will move into upscale Hiltons and Marriotts," he asserted.
AACSA likewise will educate not only its members but also lawmakers. New Indian immigrants have strong work ethics but because they lack credit records, find it difficult to obtain loans for businesses or houses. Community banks like Horizon Bank and American United Bank, with SBA Guarantees try helping such immigrants. Introducing the Attorney General, Mike said, "Mr. Baker has prodigious talent and a glowing track record. In 1998, he was elected to serve a four-year term as Attorney General and was re-elected for another term in 2002. He will be President of the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG) in 2006. He is also active in the community and is one of the State's most influential citizens."
In his informative speech, Mr. Baker said he felt honored to be part of the kick-off of AACSA and was thrilled to meet the Indian community "It's a real treat for me" he said, because Mike Patel, R. C. Patel and Jeff Smith have spent months organizing this meeting. The experiences of African-American and Indian-American communities have been very similar. Like you, we also had to overcome many obstacles but we never gave up and nor should you, he advised. He lauded the Indian community for its immense contribution in progress and prosperity of Georgia. He recounted how he fought and won two elections, and silenced his skeptics. He said he believed in strength of diversity and on being inclusive. He went on to explain the role of the Attorney General and staffing of his office and touched upon some of the most pressing issues of our times such as identity theft and mortgage loan fraud.
His speech was greeted with a standing ovation. A commemorative plaque was presented to Mr. Baker by AACSA officials. IPN Founder and CEO of Paalam Inc, Narsi Narasimhan, complimented Mr. Baker on his riveting speech. Drawing attention to the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. was deeply influenced by the philosophy and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Narasimhan commented on the good relations between the Indian-American and African-American communities, by saying, "Well, if not here then in which other State?"
The event was sponsored jointly by Diplomat Companies and AACSA.
By Mahadev Desai and Lopa D. Chowdhury
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