The first time Lan Diep ran for San Jose City Council, he says, he lost by 13 votes. The next time around, he won by 12.
Diep, who is the son of Vietnamese political refugees and a Republican, is used to things not coming easy. He spent a decade as a civil legal aid, fighting back-breaking cases for little payout, and battling on behalf of low-income workers with the Vietnamese American Workers’ Rights Project.
So when he finally earned a seat on the city council, he had more on his mind than doing the Republican Party proud.
He was there to represent everyday Americans.
Before attending his first council meeting, Diep took the oath of the office. He brought a special prop with him to symbolize his mission: Captain America’s shield.
The clip of Diep, who is a self-proclaimed comic book nerd, being sworn in while holding the shield of Captain America went viral and has made its way far beyond the city limits of San Jose, California.
In it, he vows to defend the U.S. Constitution and to protect its people from “enemies, both foreign and domestic.”
His peers grin in the background, and as the swearing-in comes to a close, the room erupts in applause.
While Diep mostly brought the shield to create a lighthearted moment, he admits that as a hero, Captain America is deeply meaningful to him.
“Captain America is a guy from World War II living in the modern world. He has this set of morals and beliefs that he believes represents the heart of America,” Diep says — things like justice, equality, and fair play. “He doesn’t serve any administration or president.”
It’s no secret that many of today’s GOP leaders are failing miserably at the simple promises they’ve all, like Diep, sworn to uphold.
Though Diep is a Republican, he doesn’t see party affiliation as a part of his job.
“I’m not going to close my eyes and just vote down the ticket,” he says. “I’m more concerned about the person holding the office and the temperament of that person to reach out to people who don’t agree with them and work together.”
Today, it sounds radical. but that’s exactly the simple idea America was built on.
When it comes to his own city of San Jose, Diep says there’s plenty of work ahead of him.
“There’s going to be a lot happening under this administration in terms of immigrations,” he says. “I look forward to addressing those issues as they arise from the federal level to make sure our citizens are safe.”
Diep represents the next generation of Republicans. He proves you can believe in smaller government and fiscally conservative policy without being a racist, xenophobic hate-monger.
It may be a low bar to clear, but that’s exactly the kind of hero we all need right now.
Watch Lan get sworn in here, using a surprisingly good superhero voice, to boot: