Volunteer Spotlight: Ben de Guzman

A leading voice on equity and justice brings his energy and insight to the Compassion & Choices AANHPI Leadership Council.

Compassion & Choices Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Leadership Council member Ben de Guzman, the son of Filipino immigrants, brings decades of experience and activism to this important group. Currently the director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA) in Washington, D.C., de Guzman’s work center’s on AAPI residents of the nation’s capital and serving as a liaison to city government. He comes to MOAPIA from the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, where he served as community outreach specialist. During his tenure there, he helped the agency assume the lead role in presenting the 32nd annual 17th Street High Heel Race, a time-honored institution of the District’s LGBTQ community.

De Guzman has been a leading voice at the local and national level on issues of racial equity, immigrants' rights, veterans affairs and LGBTQ justice for 20 years. As an advocate for equity and recognition for Filipino veterans of World War II, he played a key role in two of the most significant legislative victories on behalf of these soldiers. He led communications and outreach strategies for the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project that led to the passage of the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2016. He also served as the National Coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, where he organized a national legislative campaign that created the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund in 2009. 

His work in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities has spanned across the age spectrum. As a trainer for OCA: Asian Pacific American Advocates APIAU Leadership 101 program, he has trained over 1,000 youth and college students. As the national managing coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition, he led a national program to coordinate cross-sectoral work to bring together elders of color, LGBT elders, and Native American/Indian American elders to engage the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. 

De Guzman has authored articles and op-eds that have appeared in mainstream and special interest media, anthologies and academic publications, including the Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today. In 2015, he received a Community Service Award from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and was recognized as a Capital Pride Hero in 2019. 

Recognizing the AANHPI community is not homogenous, de Guzman feels motivated by the opportunities provided by his role in the leadership council to highlight and honor its people in the end-of-life options movement: “Even as we recognize the diversity within the AANHPI community, we can also recognize that there are several throughlines that span the different cultures that comprise the AANHPI umbrella that are particularly resonant with the end-of-life movement. Many cultures emphasize reverence for our elders, and this translates into an urgent need to make sure we treat them well,” de Guzman says. “Our cultures also center family and a paradigm of collectivity, which can be thought about in the movement as the need to make sure that our families are empowered to make decisions collectively, recognizing that individual choices regarding end-of-life affect people beyond themselves. But it is important to recognize the diversity within the AANHPI community and that we enter the enterprise with our hearts and minds open to different ways to do what we do and different rationale for the reasons why we do them, especially related to end-of-life matters.”