Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog
- Posted byon May 10, 2013 at 5:16 PM EDT
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chairing a meeting of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in Washington, D.C. The Commission is composed of 20 individuals who hail from all over the nation from New York to California, Hawaii to Guam – and from a wide range of backgrounds business, education, civil rights, farming, health, philanthropy, sports and so many more. We serve as the eyes and ears of the Administration, relaying issues and recommendations from AAPI communities to the Administration.
This meeting came at an exciting time – as we kicked off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and reflected on the Commission's and Initiative’s past accomplishments and progress. We set the direction for the Initiative's work over the next four years, met with Administration officials about the Affordable Care Act and Commonsense Immigration Reform, and discussed the challenges that still remain.
On May 7, we were invited to a meeting of the Interagency Working Group (IWG).. The IWG is comprised of senior-level Administration officials from across the federal government tasked with creating and implementing agency plans to increase AAPI participation in and access to federal programs.
At the meeting, we learned about four new sub-committees within the IWG focused on language access, research and data, capacity building, and workforce diversity. The chair of each sub-committee explained specific issues they would target and set forth concrete goals. Also, the launch of the Regional IWG was announced at the meeting.& The Regional IWG, currently comprised of forty federal representatives representing 11 agencies and sub-agencies from across the country, will help link federal programs and resources directly to the community.
We appreciated the time to meet with IWG members to learn about issues facing our communities, and to discuss possible solutions. Collectively, the Commission left rejuvenated understanding the great work that the Administration is doing and committed to carrying out in the future, and understanding our role to make the goal of AAPI inclusion a reality.
Daphne Kwok is Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon May 10, 2013 at 12:33 PM EDT
On Wednesday night, Vice President Joe Biden delivered keynote remarks before nearly 1,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) national, state, and local community leaders at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Gala Awards Dinner.
In his remarks, Vice President Biden paid tribute to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who both the President and Vice President eulogized last December. The Vice President also emphasized that by striving for possibility, equality, and justice for future generations, the AAPI community continues to embody Senator Inouye's legacy. Finally, the Vice President described the importance of commonsense immigration reform to the AAPI community and to strengthening the American economy and growing the middle class.
Danielle Borrin is Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Deputy Director of Office of Public Engagement in the Office of the Vice President. Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon May 9, 2013 at 12:57 PM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama met with a group of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) national leaders to discuss his call for commonsense immigration reform that will strengthen the economy and grow the middle class. Here’s a part of the readout from the meeting:
The President emphasized that commonsense immigration reform continues to be a top legislative priority and that he looks forward to working with the AAPI community to achieve that goal. The leaders expressed their support for the principles that the President and key Senators working on immigration reform have laid out and their strong desire for a bill that provides a pathway to earned citizenship and supports family unity. The leaders also expressed their commitment to working with Congress to strengthen the legislation that is being considered. The President and the leaders also discussed a number of issues of importance to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, including efforts to provide affordable, accessible health care to AAPI communities. Finally, the President thanked participants for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that the American Dream remains attainable for all communities and families, as well as generations to come.
Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement
- Posted byon May 8, 2013 at 11:23 AM EDT
White House Forum on AAPI Heritage (May 9)
On Thursday, May 9, the U.S. Department of the Interior, White House Office of Public Engagement, and White House Initiative on AAPIs will host a forum on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage. National leaders and scholars will discuss how the legacy of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders should be recognized, preserved, and interpreted for future generations. The event will feature remarks by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and senior Obama administration officials, as well as panel discussions featuring nationally recognized AAPI scholars and historians. Learn more about the National Park Service’s AAPI Theme Study.
To watch this event live, visit www.doi.gov/live on Thursday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EDT.
White House Briefing on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (May 10)
And on Friday, May 10, the White House Office of Public Engagement and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) will host a briefing on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, in conjunction with AAPI Heritage Month and National Mental Health Awareness Month. Panelists will share personal testimonies about their experiences dealing with suicide and mental health within the AAPI community, and discuss what resources are available to address both issues.
To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live on Friday from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. EDT.
- Posted byon May 2, 2013 at 10:02 AM EDT
Nearly everyone in America has an immigration story to share. Our voices are louder when we speak together, so please share your stories and highlight the work that’s being done in your communities. Together we can achieve commonsense immigration reform.
I arrived in Chicago in the early 1960s as a two year old. My father was already in the United States on a scholarship from the Korean government for graduate work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in nuclear engineering. After he completed his Masters degree, my mother and I came to the U.S. in order to be with him while he completed his Ph.D. When I arrived in Chicago from Korea, it had been a long time since I had seen my father, and it was a difficult reunion. I did not recognize him or understand who he was. I would not let him pick up our luggage and was upset that he was holding hands with my mother. Fortunately, that did not last long. I soon was inseparable and would not let him leave my sight. He had to take me with him to his office because I would not let him leave without me.
We had planned to return to Korea after my father completed his Ph.D., but friends and relatives advised us otherwise. The Vietnam War was raging and they were concerned about problems the war might cause for Korea. And so we all remained in the U.S. and became naturalized citizens. We lived in Colorado at the time and were one of very few Asian American families there. I often was the first and only Asian American many of my classmates and neighbors had ever met. My mother grew cabbage, bean sprouts and chili peppers in our backyard because there were no Asian grocery stores from which to buy the ingredients for KimChee. Over time, my father sponsored some of his siblings to immigrate to the U.S. It was wonderful to suddenly have aunts, uncles and cousins. I had never known what it meant to have relatives before, so I didn’t know what I missed until I had it. I can only imagine how lonely it must have been for my parents to be alone in the U.S., missing their family for so many years.
Our family now has several generations in the U.S. and we are in communities across the U.S. Many of us are still in Colorado; I am in Chicago; others of us are settled on the coasts. My father went on to a long career in the U.S. Navy and the Department of Energy. At the end of his career, during the Clinton administration, he became a technical advisor to the U.S. State Department to negotiate with North Korea to shut down their nuclear program in exchange for new and safer nuclear technology from the U.S. and international allies. It was a fitting close to his career in public service and his decision to immigrate to the U.S.—to be able to represent his adopted country in work that also would assist the land of his birth.
Ms. Unmi Song is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Song is also Executive Director of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation.
- Posted byon May 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM EDT
Today marks the first day of this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. To mark the occasion, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation. In it, the President highlighted the importance of using this month to reflect upon the history and contributions of AAPIs to this country:
“Each May, our Nation comes together to recount the ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) helped forge our country. We remember a time 170 years ago, when Japanese immigrants first set foot on American shores and opened a path for millions more. We remember 1869, when Chinese workers laid the final ties of the transcontinental railroad after years of backbreaking labor. And we remember Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made our country bigger and brighter again and again, from Native Hawaiians to the generations of striving immigrants who shaped our history -- reaching and sweating and scraping to give their children something more. Their story is the American story, and this month, we honor them all.”
This year, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center selected a Heritage Month theme, “I Want the Wide American Earth,” based on the poem by acclaimed Filipino American writer, Carlos Bulosan. As Bulosan so eloquently writes:
Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers,
I say I want the wide American earth
For all the free.
I want the wide American earth for my people.
I want my beautiful land.
I want it with my rippling strength and tenderness
Of love and light and truth
For all the free.
Bulosan’s poem captures the scope and ambition of the American Dream. His words also reflect the enduring spirit of many AAPI immigrants and refugees seeking freedom and prosperity for their families.
Over the next month, we will highlight the many ways in which the Obama Administration continues to address the needs of the AAPI community, for example by working towards commonsense immigration reform. We encourage you to share your own stories and the work that’s being done in your communities.
Throughout the month, we will also host a number of exciting events, including:
Google+ Hangout for AAPI Heritage Month
Today, from 3:00 – 3:45PM EST, Lisa Ling, Phil Yu (the blogger behind Angry Asian Man), and representatives from the White House Initiative on AAPIs and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center will help launch AAPI Heritage Month through a Google+ Hangout (webcast discussion).
- To watch this event live, click here.
- To Tweet a question, use #may1apa.
White House AAPI Women Champions of Change
On Monday, May 6th from 1:00 – 3:30PM EST, the White House will honor fifteen AAPI women as “Champions of Change,” recognizing their extraordinary work to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country.
- To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:00PM EST.
- To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
White House Forum on AAPI Heritage
On Thursday, May 9th from 1:00 – 5:00PM EST, national leaders and scholars will gather to discuss how the legacy of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders should be recognized, preserved, and interpreted for future generations. The event will feature remarks by senior Obama Administration officials and panel discussions featuring nationally recognized AAPI scholars and historians.
- To watch this event live, visit www.doi.gov/live at 1:00PM EST.
- For more information, please click here.
AAPI Heritage Month is an annual call to action for the AAPI community. We would like to hear about your plans to observe AAPI Heritage Month and your vision of the “Wide American Earth,” and encourage you to fill out this feedback form. Together, we look forward to celebrating the contributions of the AAPI community in the month ahead, and we hope you will visit www.whitehouse.gov/aapi to learn more.
Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
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