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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: History and Resources
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. This month celebrates the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
In 1978, Congress passed a joint congressional resolution to observe and honor Asian American Heritage week during the first week of May. Historically, Asians have played an important role in American history. The week celebrates two anniversaries: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7th, 1843 and the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. by the Chinese on May 10th, 1869. These events marked a great change in America and also reflected the significant contributions of Asians to America.
Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama "have annually issued proclamations designating May as 'Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month'" and on May 1st 2009, President Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 8369 which recalls the challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and celebrates their great and significant contributions to our society."
This month celebrates Asians and Pacific Islanders from the Asian continent to the Pacific Islands which include:
- Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands)
- Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia)
- Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Like other immigrant groups that arrived in America for better opportunities, Asian-Pacific Americans also struggled but made significant contributions to the U.S. Today Asian-Pacific Americans are playing a vital role in shaping our community and nation: in the arts, sports, political policies and beyond. These notable Asian-Pacific Americans include:
- U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu
- Former NY Knicks' and Current Houston Rockets Basketball Player Jeremy Lin
- Olympic Winner Short Track Speed Skater Apolo Ohno
- U.S. Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao
- Musician Yo-Yo Ma
- From Harold and Kumar - Actors Kal Penn and John Cho
- Writer and Author of The Joy Luck Club: Amy Tan
- Ice Skater Michelle Kwan
- Journalist Lisa Ling
- President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim