May 07 2007
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement in recognition of Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month:
During the month of May we celebrate Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. I would like to join the Nation in honoring the many contributions of Americans of Asian Pacific Islander descent and pay tribute to their efforts in strengthening and nourishing our history, commerce, cultural identity, and resolve.
This month-long tribute would not be complete without recognizing the visionaries who founded Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month: U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, former U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, and former U.S. Representative Frank Horton. As a result of their steadfast leadership, a joint resolution established Asian Pacific American Heritage Week in 1978, and the celebration was later expanded to an entire month in 1992.
This celebration takes place in May to mark the first Japanese immigrants’ arrival in America in 1843, as well as the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 – which would not have been finished without the hard work and dedication of Chinese laborers.
This month is also a time to honor the Japanese American survivors of the forced internment camps established during World War II. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a grim chapter in America’s history. But by sustaining this history, we can hope to prevent a similar travesty from occurring.
That’s why it was so important to designate Tule Lake as a National Historic Landmark within the lifetimes of the few surviving Japanese-American internees, before many of their stories were lost. And thanks to the efforts of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the Tule Lake Segregation Center will help future generations understand the pain and suffering that Japanese Americans endured during World War II.
Despite these hardships, members of the Asian Pacific Islander community have continued to take positions of leadership and have worked hard to secure a brighter future for all.
Today, California boasts 20 elected officials of Asian Pacific Islander heritage. There are now nine Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the State Legislature; four on the State Board of Equalization, including John Chiang as the state controller; and a number of others in local government. A new generation of leaders has emerged with a vision of a politically empowered Asian Pacific Islander American electorate.
Additionally, over 62,000 Asian Pacific Islander Americans are on active duty in the military, and nearly 8,000 are deployed across the world to fight terrorism. And Asian Pacific Islander Americans are among the thousands of Americans who have sacrificed their lives for our country.
The United States draws great strength from the diversity of this population. At present, Asian Pacific Islander Americans constitute one of the fastest growing minority communities in the United States. And California is home to the greatest number of Asian Pacific Islander Americans. In fact, there are over 13 million Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the nation, with more than 4.5 million living in California.
As the second largest-ethnic minority group in California, Asian Pacific Islander heritage continues to enrich our state with famous enclaves such as San Francisco’s Chinatown, Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Westminster’s Little Saigon, and the City of Artesia’s Little India.
We must recognize that the Asian Pacific Islander American community is diverse, not only in language, culture and foods, but in education and socio-economic levels as well. That’s why it is so important to provide talented students who have clearly embraced the American dream the incentive to take the path toward being a responsible, contributing member in our civic society.
I have co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2007 to give undocumented high school students who wish to attend college or serve in the armed forces an opportunity to adjust to a lawful status and pursue these goals. If it becomes law, the DREAM Act would help Asian Pacific Islander Americans and others triumph over adversity.
As future generations of Asian Pacific Islander Americans continue to strive for excellence in our educational system, economy, and communities, I am pleased to honor and distinguish the many triumphs and accomplishments of the Asian Pacific Islander American community and their role in shaping our nation’s identity.