This month we celebrate the myriad contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States and honor the essential role that AAPI communities continue to play in enriching our nation’s legacy. This is a time to commemorate the diverse cultures, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and recognize how these unique experiences have shaped our political, social, and economic growth as a nation.
This annual commemoration first began as a week-long celebration in 1978, and in 1992, May was officially designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. The month of May was selected to pay tribute to the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and also to observe the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad—a project that was completed primarily by Chinese immigrants who laid the tracks.
President Obama recently signed a proclamation in which he also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese cherry blossom trees planted in Washington, D.C.—a reminder of our “standing as a Pacific nation.” We have also been asked to reflect on the 70 years since the official internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Soon our President will be bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Gordon Hirabayashi—whose courageous defiance of this forced relocation led the fight for justice all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, a total of 17.3 million Asian Americans and 1.2 million Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (including in combination with another race) live in the United States. The Asian population increased more than four times faster than the total U.S. population, and the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population increased more than three times faster than the total U.S. population.
Along with the Administration and the Department, ACF remains committed to work with AAPI communities and support their ongoing efforts to combat discrimination at all levels and address socioeconomic and health disparities. Our agency’s work not only helps AAPI communities with family economic assistance and child welfare services, but we’ve come up with innovative ways to help communities preserve their language and culture, and also instill pride in their land.
Together, let us respond to the President’s call to action by visiting www.AsianPacificHeritage.gov to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and “let us rededicate ourselves to making our Nation a place that welcomes the contributions of all people, all colors, and all creeds, and ensures the American dream is within reach for all who seek it.”