Kicking Off AAPI Heritage Month 2013

President Barack Obama delivers the keynote address at the APAICS 18th Annual Gala Dinner (May 8, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers the keynote address at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) 18th Annual Gala Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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. 

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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