Written by one of our volunteers, Karen Mai, in honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
 

Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month celebrates the significance of Asian/Pacific Islanders’ contributions and highlights the success, strife, and strength of Asian American and Pacific Islanders. 

As an Asian American, I greatly appreciate that there is a month dedicated to the achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I am thankful for all the previous generations that have made me feel more accepted in society. I am thankful for all the people that stand together as one to continue supporting the Asian American community. I am thankful that currently I am seen as more accepted because of what the older generation has made this world for me to be. Without my elders striving to make it through surviving in the States, I would have no position in the world; I would not know who I am and how I truly belong. I would have to go through even more struggles to feel accepted. I have always understood and expressed my sympathy to my first cousins, who were first-generation children of immigrants and hoped they could bring brighter futures and better lives for us. I admire the people that have done so much to find a meaning for Asians in America. That I am no different than anyone in this country. That we are equal. Barack Obama once has said "[America does not] simply welcome new immigrants. We are born of immigrants. It's our oldest tradition."

On October 23, 1992, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month was originally chosen to commemorate Japanese immigration to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, partially by the labor of thousands of Chinese immigrants.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been distinguished in various fields of arts, literature, and sports, among others. Many leading kinds of research of science, medicine, and technology are done through the intellect of many Asian Americans. They are known to be innovative farmers, ranchers, distinguished lawyers, and government leaders. Among these people, Dr. Sammy Lee was a Korean American and the first Asian American man who won an Olympic gold medal. Moreover, he became a platform diving champion at the 1948 London Olympics only one year after graduating from medical school. His story is compassionate, strong, and moving. His dreams were difficult to achieve, though he persisted through times when his local childhood’s pool had a policy of opening to minorities only once per week, forcing him to face housing discrimination. Enduring such treatment, he completed 8 years of military service to his nation, the United States. Though he faced unfair discrimination, he still stands to serve his country and his community--even representing the United States at the Olympics on behalf of several Presidents. These stories of injustice and courage must be heard; with this month, hardworking individuals like Le can be appreciated and given gratitude for what they have done.

As of now, there are more than 20 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, and every day these people make America more vibrant, more prosperous, and more secure. The Nation has many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces, protecting the Nation, and promoting freedom around the world.

Many great leaders continue to strive and support the Asian American community, such as former United States president Barack Obama who helped over 2 million uninsured AAPIs gain access to health care. He also advocated for the increase in data collection about AAPI groups to further understand, discern, and address their needs.

"Just as we moved beyond ‘No Irish need apply’ signs, just as we moved beyond questioning the loyalty of Catholics, just as we moved beyond the active persecution of Chinese immigrants, just as we learned that the stain on our history of our treatment of Japanese immigrants and even Japanese Americans in World War II, we are going to move beyond today’s anti-immigrant sentiment as well," Obama said. "We will live up to our ideals. We just have to keep speaking out against hatred and bigotry in all of its forms."

As a result, May is not only about honoring and celebrating the achievements of AAPI members, but acknowledging how we can help them better move forward--creating a more diverse, equal, and inspirational world.

 

References

"APAICS | Asian Pacific American Heritage Month." Apaics.org. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 May 2018.

"Asian Pacific American Heritage Month." Asianpacificheritage.gov. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 May 2018.

Prois, Jessica. "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, A Celebrasian Of Dual Identities." HuffPost. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 May 2018.

Smith, Dawn W. "2017-AAPI-PPT-FINAL.Pdf." Defense.gov. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 May 2018.