Washington, D.C. (January 27, 2011) – This week, Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), provided the following response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address:
My name is Mike Honda, and I serve in the US House of Representatives, representing California’s 15th District in Silicon Valley. I am also the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Today, I present to you my response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, noting key areas that will be important for our country, particularly for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
President Obama outlined a 21st century vision for the American economy that will keep our nation competitive with top global economies.
While reducing government debt and waste, the President’s agenda is founded on investments for our future – a better education for our children, a clean energy economy, and critical investments in our transportation infrastructure.
Looking forward, President Obama rightfully keys in on an important priority of my own: education.
As a former principal, teacher and school board member, I agree that rebuilding our public education system to be, again, the finest in the world is critical to the future of our nation.
Our Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade education system lags behind. Pragmatic, research-proven investments are key to training the top work force in the world.
We must ensure that the needs of all of our communities are met, paying special attention to underserved communities in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Many of you out there may be thinking, but don’t all Asians get As in school?
I’m here to debunk this myth. Not all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are healthy, wealthy and wise.
Many of our subgroups face significant educational challenges related to historical and economic circumstances such as refugee status or poverty. We need disaggregated data in order to better identify their needs.
In fact, certain subgroups make up some of the most vulnerable populations in our nation.
We must collect data and disaggregate the data to better serve these underserved populations. We must provide equal educational opportunities for English language learners as well, in order for them to excel and become full contributors to our economy.
I also strongly believe that we must make equity the core of our federal education policy.
That is why I have worked closely with the Department of Education on launching its National Commission on Education Equity and Excellence, a commission I have worked to establish and fund.
This commission will drive the national dialogue on equity for our nation. Equity for each student is key to keeping our nation’s workforce competitive, and train leaders for our country’s future.
I look forward to continuing my work with the Department of Education on these issues.
President Obama also addressed the need to strengthen our clean energy economy and transportation infrastructure. These two important priorities are key to ensuring a vibrant manufacturing economy and job creation for our nation’s future.
Progressive American companies stand ready to break free from fossil fuels if we will create the policies to promote it and the infrastructure to support it. Revitalizing our Energy and Transportation Infrastructure will put our construction sector to work in the near-term and be a boon to every sector of our economy in the long-term.
I applaud the President’s commitment to making the crucial public investments the private sector needs to thrive.
It is important to remember, as President Obama knows well, that small businesses are the primary job creation engine in this country.
From retail to high-tech, small businesses are the backbone of American industry and they need to have a prominent seat at the table in developing America’s investment and competitiveness strategy.
As we move forward, we must ensure that all communities, including minority and women owned businesses have access to their fair share of contracting opportunities, which will become available as we invest in these important areas, including the 1.1 million businesses owned by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
President Obama and his Administration understand the importance of making sure that AAPI small business owners and entrepreneurs have a seat at the table.
I recently participated in a summit the President’s Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted in Silicon Valley. This summit, attended by over 800 people in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, allowed leaders to discuss key economic priorities with the Administration.
I look forward to continuing to work with the President, to ensure our priorities are addressed. These include access to capital and access to government contracting.
Finally, President Obama rightly states that deficit reduction must be an integral part of our nation’s long-term plan. Ultimately the key to a balanced budget, lowering our debt and reducing our deficit is building a high growth economy.
This will only happen when we are honest about the cost of cutting taxes for the most wealthy in our nation. We must ensure that the brunt of deficit reduction does not fall upon the shoulders of our most vulnerable populations. It will be important to protect key investments outlined by the President, such as investments in education, and support for our small businesses that drive our economy.
We must also confront the cost of our ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, which has been moved off-budget, creating a bloated unnecessary debt for future generations.
In the meantime, I applaud the President’s efforts to reduce government waste and redundant programming, and look forward to working with him on these important issues as a returning Member of the House Committee on Budget and as an Appropriator.
I support President Obama’s agenda, as it will be important to rally the country to move beyond the last three years of crisis, recession and tepid recovery.
We must build a 21st Century Economy that competes with each of the high growth economies in the world.
When rallying the Nation I urge my colleagues to be mindful of the tone of our debates. Our drive to strengthen our own economy must not have a xenophobic tenor. The constant inaccurate references to China could easily go too far and feed the fire of intolerance and xenophobia.
The United States must always strive to be a country that celebrates tolerance, understanding and respect, which are the pillars that support democracy.
As global leaders, we must ensure that this respect is infused in the spirit of our rhetoric and our actions.
Again, I fully support President Obama’s agenda to strengthen our nation for today and for the future.
On behalf of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I look forward to continuing our caucus’s work with the President to build a hopeful future for our nation that is inclusive, equitable, and competitive.
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. Since 1994, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life. For more information on CAPAC, please call (202) 225-2631 or visit http://www.honda.house.gov/capac.