Remarks by President Biden in Meeting with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Civil Rights Leaders
State Dining Room
12:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me begin by saying to the press that I’m sorry that I’m late. We just learned a very close friend passed away: Rich Trumka. And he was more than the head of the AFL-CIO. He was a good, close, personal friend.
And the Vice President and I were talking a little bit, and he — he was with his son and his grandsons on a camping trip, and — and at least he was with the people who adore him.
But I apologize for starting late.
Q We’re sorry for your loss, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The Vice President and I are honored to host leaders representing the rich diversity of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities — many of whom I met before, some of whom I’m meeting for the first time — and I welcome again to the White House.
We have a full agenda to discuss: the pandemic, the economy, immigration, voting rights, and hate crimes.
In fact, let me start by acknowledging that on this day, in 2012, I was with another friend who’s half Sikh — he’s a Sikh. And we were on — dealing with the 10 people shot in a hateful act of bigotry at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Seven people lost their lives that day.
Today, we honor everyone impacted by this tragedy. And we think about all the pain during this pandemic, with the rise of hate crimes, harassment, bullying, and other forms of bias against Asian Americans. It seems not to stop.
And after the shooting in the Atlanta area, Kamala and I traveled to Atlanta, met with a group — some of whom are here — of Asian American leaders. The discussion was very raw. It was powerful. And a common theme was that Asian Americans feeling unsafe, unwanted, and some of you indicted feeling invisible sometimes.
Our message back to you was, at that moment: We see you. We see you.
A few months later, we stood here in the White House and we signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law.
It also was a powerful moment showing that we can come together — Democrat and Republican — we can come together as a nation and truly look out for one another.
You know, that’s why we wanted to convene this meeting to continue to strengthen our efforts because more must be done, in my view — our view.
A pandemic the AH — the AANI — -NH and PI community — I stumbled all over myself there — but has been on the frontlines from the beginning and is critical to helping us vaccinate America — not just get vaccinated but to vaccinate America.
The community is also critical in keeping the U.S. economy strong. In six months, we’re seeing the fastest growth at this point in any administration’s history — in no small part because of this community. The fastest-growing economic growth in nearly 40 years.
And now we have an opportunity to make historic investments in our infrastructure and in our families, and finally build an economy that deals everybody in — just doesn’t come from top down, but from the middle and the bottom up. And creating millions of good-paying jobs in every community, including the AANHPI community and delivering affordable childcare, paid leave, universal pre-K, as well as community college.
There is work to do on immigration; there’s work to do on voting rights and so much more.
On my first day in office, I signed an executive order to advance racial equity and a whole-of-government approach to address inequities and injustice in America from every agency. And this group’s input has been critical and continues to be critical to that approach.
And I look forward to the discussion that we’re about to have and the actions that, God willing, we’ll be able to follow.
So I want to thank you all again for being here, and we’ll get to our meeting. Thank you.
12:19 P.M. EDT