By Kiran Ahuja
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 1, 2015) — Today marks the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the incredible diversity within our community and the significant contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders to this nation. It is also a time to reflect on the trials and tribulations our community has overcome and the many challenges still faced, including barriers to equal access to education, employment, and health care, as well as ongoing struggles with discrimination.
President Obama expresses this sentiment and more in his 2015 Presidential Proclamation for AAPI Heritage Month.
As part of the month, we will hold the White House Summit on AAPIs on May 12. This Summit will be an unprecedented and historic all-day convening of senior federal officials and leaders from across the country. The Summit will celebrate President Obama’s leadership, showcase Administration policies and programs that have supported the AAPI community over the past six years, and outline efforts for the next two years and decades to come. Tune in live to the Summit at whitehouse.gov/aapi.
I am also pleased to share with you a video message from myself and Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Center. We invite you to share this video and to join the conversation online with #APAEverywhere.
Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Konrad Ng, is the Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.
CAPAC Members and Congressional Leaders Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May is officially designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by section 102 of title 36, United States Code. The observance originally began as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, which was established through a joint Congressional resolution in 1978. The month of May was chosen due to two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: May 7, 1843, when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and May 10, 1869, when the first transcontinental railroad was completed with substantial contributions from Chinese immigrant workers.
Washington, DC – Today marks the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which commemorates the history, contributions, and achievements of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community throughout the month of May. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and Congressional Leaders released the following statements:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to recognize the many contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have made to the success and vibrancy of our nation. From the Chinese railroad workers who helped to build our first transcontinental railroad, to Southeast Asians who fled war torn countries to seek safety along our shores, to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders working to preserve their rich cultural traditions – the Asian American and Pacific Islander story has always centered around the promise of the American Dream. As the fastest growing racial group in the United States, and the largest wave of new immigrants to our country, AAPIs also play an integral role in shaping our nation’s future.
“As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), I am thrilled to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with our AAPI communities all across the nation and look forward to continuing to fight for policies that ensure a better future for AAPIs and all Americans.”
Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair:
“I join Americans across our country in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. APA Heritage Month is an opportunity to highlight the many contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make to our nation and celebrate the diverse backgrounds that make up the AAPI community. As Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I work with my colleagues to raise awareness of the many challenges that continue to face the AAPI community. CAPAC plays a critical role in advocating for issues important to our community and over the years we have made significant progress on policy priorities that level the playing field and improving the quality of life for AAPIs throughout the country. AAPIs play an important role in adding to the rich fabric of American life, and I hope that all Americans will take time to learn about the many achievements, contributions and sacrifices Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to make to our nation.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honors the spirit, accomplishments, and sacrifices of the fastest growing immigrant population in our country. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Southeast Asian American community. I have always been proud to call myself Asian American; even when my ethnicity exposed me to bullying, discrimination, and even imprisonment. Asian Americans have overcome great hardships to become integral parts of America. We have made contributions in science, the arts, business, entertainment, cuisine, and of course politics. This month is also a great opportunity to address the challenges that remain, including problems with our broken immigration system. But mostly, it is a time to celebrate all that we have accomplished.”
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip:
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to honor the remarkable contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to the United States. I join my colleagues in CAPAC in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and I’m proud to be a member of a community that makes America a more vibrant and resilient nation.”
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI):
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a celebration of the contributions and progress made by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Asian and Pacific Americans have made great contributions to our nation’s history. This is especially apparent in Hawaii where the legacies of trailblazers like Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink, and many others continue to have a lasting impact.
“APA Heritage Month is also a time to think about what the future holds and our role in shaping it. As the fastest growing demographic in the United States, the AAPI community will continue to have a growing presence and stronger voice in our national debates for years to come.”
Senator Brian Schatz (HI):
“During the month of May, we celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, recognizing the lasting contributions to our nation made by the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We also commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States more than 170 years ago. The Asian-Pacific American influence is a part of our daily lives in Hawai’i where its traditions and customs are woven into our culture, cuisine, and commerce. The Hawai’i that we proudly call our home today owes a great legacy to the Ancient Hawaiians who established a vibrant and self-sustaining society in one of the most isolated places in the world. The strong values and numerous accomplishments of Asian-Pacific Americans highlight strength in diversity and inspire community-building throughout our nation.”
Senator Harry Reid (NV), Senate Democratic Leader:
“The month of May provides Americans the opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the many contributions made by the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to Nevada and our country. This strong and diverse community has played an instrumental role in America’s development. Members in the AAPI community have shaped America through their work as civil rights activists, rail-road workers, farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and public servants. They have excelled in commerce, the arts, medicine, law, government and academia. America is a better place thanks to the AAPI community and their accomplishments. Today, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in America is vibrant. Our country is enriched with over 16 million people representing 45 different ethnic groups and 28 languages, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up one of the most dynamic and fastest growing populations in Nevada. I am grateful for the vital role they play in Nevada’s economic and cultural development.
“As we celebrate and recognize the achievements of the AAPI community, this month also reminds us to reflect on the challenges still faced by AAPI communities. I will continue to work in Congress to represent the needs and interests of all members of the AAPI community. Earlier this year I joined my colleague Senator Mazie Hirono in fighting for legislation that would reunite children and families of Filipino World War II veterans. I am proud to represent more than 100,000 Filipino-Americans in Nevada and I will continue my steadfast support of family reunification efforts this Congress. I also will not stop fighting for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that will keep families across Nevada and our nation together and will make the American dream a reality for all. As we begin May, I join my fellow Nevadans in celebration and extend my best wishes for a joyous Asian-American And Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), House Democratic Leader:
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements, rich cultures, and extraordinary contributions of the AAPI community. For generations, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to every aspect of the American experience. Their energy and entrepreneurial spirit, courage and creativity, sacrifice and hard work have strengthened the foundation of our nation. Today, our AAPI brothers and sisters continue to move America forward. In advocating for equality of opportunity, justice and inclusion, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been vital to shaping our shared American identity in cities across the country. In my hometown of San Francisco, a deeply-rooted, vibrant and growing AAPI community continues to build our city, continues to enrich it, and reminds us every day that the beauty is in the mix.”
Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), House Democratic Whip:
“Throughout the month of May, we celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have helped build and strengthen our nation throughout its history. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month serves as an opportunity to reflect on the many significant impacts they have made on every facet of American society – from business and government to education and the arts, from military service to science and innovation. Our nation’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have played an influential role in shaping American history and continue to help grow our economy and strengthen our democracy.
“I am proud to work alongside my colleagues in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, who serve as key leaders on critical issues. I look forward to continuing to work with them to advance issues that these communities – and all Americans – care about, including making higher education more accessible, fixing our broken immigration system, and expanding access to jobs and opportunities so that everyone can achieve the American Dream.”
Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus:
“The strength of our nation’s diversity has led to historic achievements in justice and equal rights for all Americans and all Californians. That is why I am honored to celebrate this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and recognize the rich history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). As the representative of vibrant communities like Koreatown, Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Little Bangladesh, and Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, I can attest to the civic leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and thriving cultures of the AAPI community and the impact they have had on our city. Their contributions keep the American Dream and the fight for equal rights in our country alive.”
Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-14), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus:
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time for each and every one of us to pay tribute to the many remarkable contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to New York and our entire country. Whether it is through the sciences, arts, business, or government, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped shape every facet of American society. I am proud to join my fellow Americans in honoring the AAPI community, and I will continue to make the realization of equal rights for Asian Americans a key part of my work in Congress.”
CAPAC EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBERS
Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07):
“This May, we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders which have strengthened our great nation. Just in the past year, we’ve seen the appointment of Asian American leaders into important public offices, like U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. I am encouraged by our progress as a community and energized to continue to help build the foundation for future generations of leaders.”
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08):
“During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May, it’s important for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to not only reflect on how far we have come, but also recommit ourselves to ensuring that all members of our community can achieve the American Dream.
“Asian and Pacific Americans have helped our nation achieve so much of its greatness. From helping to build this country by constructing our nation’s railroads, to serving in our nation’s military and defending democracy and freedom around the world, the Asian Pacific American community’s story is woven into the fabric of our nation’s great history.
“Now, the number of Asian and Pacific Americans serving in the Cabinet, Congress, and running major companies is greater than ever before. While we’ve made great progress, the work is not over for Asian and Pacific Americans. I look forward to continuing to make sure our voices are heard.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02):
“This month we celebrate all the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that have enriched America’s history. The members of this community have left their mark on politics, the military, science, business, arts, sports, and every other aspect of our nation’s culture. Hawai‘i, a state where the majority of residents are Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders, has produced numerous leaders including U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, and Congresswoman Patsy Mink, all of whom worked tirelessly to better the lives of all Americans.”
Congressman Al Green (TX-09):
“Throughout our country’s history, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have greatly contributed to the strength and prosperity of our great nation. The diversity and history of these communities are essential to the American experience. As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, my colleagues and I in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), will continue to proudly serve the interests of our Asian American and Pacific Islander constituents.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13):
“I’m proud to join communities across the country celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May. In my home state of California, the AAPI community has been integral to the cultural, economic, and civic development of our state. From opening up small businesses, pioneering new scientific discoveries, creating groundbreaking works of art and literature, and serving in elected office, the vibrant Asian Pacific American community has contributed to the fabric of our society. The East Bay’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths and I am proud to represent such a wide range of cultures. As we celebrate the rich diversity in our nation, we must not lose sight of the work that remains. As co-chair of the CAPAC Health Care Task Force, I am committed to ending the persistent health disparities that hurt communities of color. Congress must also act to expand opportunity and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33):
“Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is a time to honor AAPI history and to acknowledge how AAPIs contribute to all sectors of our society. The commemoration of AAPI Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the rich culture and diversity that makes our nation a more perfect union. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian American population grew by 45.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, making Asian Americans the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. Currently, AAPI’s make up more than 5.5 million of California’s population, constituting 15.5% of the state’s population. The impact of AAPI’s across the nation continues to be apparent through our community’s accomplishments and the growing presence of AAPI elected officials in government.”
Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui (CA-06):
“This May, I am pleased to join my colleagues as we recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I am honored to represent the Sacramento region, which is home to many vibrant and engaged Asian Pacific American communities. Now more than ever, our communities and our country are strengthened by the diversity of our cultures, traditions and viewpoints. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds to reflect upon and appreciate the many sacrifices and success of Asian Pacific Americans during the history of our country. I encourage everyone to celebrate this month by learning something new about APA contributions to our nation.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06):
“I am proud to join my colleagues in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage month. During this special occasion, we commemorate and pay tribute to all the outstanding customs and contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make to our great nation each and every day. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders enrich our country and communities, and play key roles in virtually every facet of our society. I have no doubt that these accomplishments will only continue to grow, and that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will continue to have tremendous positive impacts on America for many decades to come.”
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI):
“The people of the Northern Mariana Islands once again join other Americans this May in celebrating the many contributions that Pacific Islanders and people of Asian heritage have made to our great country. The Northern Mariana Islands has always been blessed with a rich diversity of peoples of Pacific Islander and Asian descent, and by working together to share and learn from our cultures, we make our community stronger. As the fastest growing segment of America’s population, we look forward to increasing the influence and impact the AAPI community can have in guiding our nation’s vibrant future.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03):
“I am proud to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage during the month of May. Asian Pacific Americans have contributed so much to the fabric of our country. I encourage Americans of all backgrounds to educate themselves on the rich heritage of Asian Pacific Americans and to take a moment to honor their contributions to our great nation.”
Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01):
“It is an honor to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month with my fellow CAPAC members. I am fortunate enough to be a grandson of hard working immigrants from Japan, who came to Hawaii with the hope of building a better life. The opportunities my grandparents came to America for are the exact kind of opportunities that I want to ensure exists for generations to come. This month we should not only reflect upon the tremendous contributions of the AAPI community to society, but also consider the work that remains to be done.”
CAPAC ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47):
“This May, I am proud to join communities across our nation in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. We recognize the immeasurable contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to strengthen the rich heritage of our nation. There are so many culturally diverse communities in California’s 47th Congressional District—from Cambodia Town and the Filipino and Pacific Islander communities in Long Beach to the Korean Business District and Little Saigon in Westminster and Garden Grove, I am fortunate to see firsthand how Asian Pacific Americans continue to add to the vibrant fabric of our nation. This year marks 40 years since the Fall of Saigon and the start of the journey to freedom for so many Vietnamese Americans. We cannot forget the continuing struggle for freedom and democracy many face not only in Vietnam but in other countries across the globe. We must reaffirm our determination to secure basic human rights for all members of our communities. This month, serves as an important reminder of the courage, commitment and determination millions of Asian Pacific Americans have made and continue to make in their pursuit of a better life for their families.”
Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52):
“This May I am honored to join my colleagues and San Diegans as we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Members of Asian and Pacific Islander communities have been active citizens in neighborhoods across San Diego, and continue to contribute to the cultural fabric that makes up our region. I look forward to continued opportunities to work with API communities in the future, so that we can bring their important perspective to the ongoing discussions in Congress.”
Congressman Charles Rangel (NY-13):
“I am proud to join CAPAC in recognizing Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to laud the many accomplishments of the AAPI community. As a Korean War veteran and Representative of a congressional district in New York City which boasts one of the largest AAPI populations in America, I have a longstanding friendship with the community. Let us celebrate their innumerous contributions that have enriched the fabric of our country.”
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40):
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been a pivotal part of our nation’s story, making invaluable contributions to our economy, our military, our schools, and every element of our society. In Los Angeles and all across our great country, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have, throughout history, overcome great adversity through hard work, determination, and sacrifice. As we observe Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I hope all Americans will join me in celebrating the traditions and triumphs of the AAPI community, and recognize all that they have done to make America a better, stronger, and fairer place to live.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14):
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an important time to recognize the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the Bay area and around the country. My Congressional district is brightly painted with the history of immigrants from Asia, the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and generations of their descendants. The AAPI community is a vital part of our nation, contributing outstanding entrepreneurs, members of our armed forces and community leaders that represent the best aspects of American life. Their heritage, work, and culture make the Bay Area one of the most interesting and desirable places to live and work.
“Each May is also a solemn reminder of a historic wrong. My Congressional district has the largest population of Filipino Americans in the continental United States. We must honor the living Filipino heroes who fought for our country in World War II – more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served our nation proudly, and the less than 20,000 who are still with us deserve the same benefits received by all U.S veterans. Let’s use Asian Pacific American Heritage Month as an opportunity to honor the values America was founded on: equality, opportunity and democracy.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43):
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contribute significantly to our vibrant national identity, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month invites us all to recognize those contributions. My district is home to a large AAPI community, which grows each year as families come to the United States seeking great opportunity in cities including Los Angeles, Gardena, and Torrance.
“Last month, I organized an event at the Japanese American National Museum to celebrate Gary Miyatake, a photographer in my district, to unveil his beautiful portrait of Cesar Chavez, an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who devoted his life to obtain better treatment for workers. The portrait will be displayed and stored at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. This event was well attended by leaders of both the Latino and Asian American communities and included inspiring performances by students of Cesar Chavez elementary school.
“Mr. Miyatake’s is only one of the stories that I keep in mind each time that I join the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in representing the voices of families in the APPI community, who add their rich cultures and histories to the fabric of our nation. Let’s use this month to reflect on the value of such diversity, and reaffirm our commitment to a thriving American Dream.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.