Commentary on Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month stems from a week-long observance initiated by President Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) in the late 1970s. Since then, Asian Americans have become increasingly more prominent in politics, government, and business. New immigrants are revitalizing inner cities with commercial enterprises. Asian-American communities have grown in places such as Monterey Park and Westminster, California, and Flushing, New York. The Asian-American influence is being felt in the kitchens and dining rooms of America with the growing popularity of vegetarian fare such as tofu and soy milk.
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month—in May—was to be celebrated for only two years by the terms of the legislation authorizing it.
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, 1991 and 1992
By the President of the United States of America
With characteristic clarity and force, Walt Whitman wrote: "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem....Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations." Those immortal words eloquently describe America's ethnic diversity —a diversity we celebrate with pride during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Asian/Pacific American heritage is marked by its richness and depth. The world marvels at the wealth of ancient art and philosophy, the fine craftsmanship, and the colorful literature and folklore that have sprung from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Whether they trace their roots to places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, and the Marshall Islands or cherish their identities as natives of Hawaii and Guam, all Asian and Pacific Americans can take pride in this celebration of their heritage.
By preserving the time-honored customs and traditions of their ancestral homelands, Americans of Asian and Pacific descent have greatly enriched our Nation's culture. They have also made many outstanding contributions to American history. Indeed, this country's westward expansion and economic development were greatly influenced by thousands of Chinese and other Asians who immigrated during the 19th century. Today recent immigrants from South Asia are giving our Nation new appreciation for that region of the world.
Over the years—and often in the face of great obstacles—Asian and Pacific Americans have worked hard to reap the rewards of freedom and opportunity. Many have arrived in the United States after long and arduous journeys, escaping tyranny and oppression with little more than the clothes on their backs. Yet, believing in America's promise of liberty and justice for all and imbued with a strong sense of self-discipline, sacrifice, courage, and honor, they have steadily advanced, earning the respect and admiration of their fellow citizens. Today we give special and long-overdue recognition to the nisei who fought for our country in Europe during World Ward II. During one of America's darker hours, they affirmed the patriotism and loyalty of Japanese Americans and, in so doing, taught us an important lesson about tolerance and justice.
Time and again throughout our Nation's history, Asian and Pacific Americans have proved their devotion to the ideals of freedom and democratic government. Those ideals animate and guide our policies toward Asia and the Pacific today. The economic dynamism of the Pacific Rim is a crucial source of growth for the global economy, and the United States will continue working to promote economic cooperation and the expansion of free markets throughout the region. The United States also remains committed to the security of our allies and to the advancement of human rights throughout Asia and the Pacific.
The political and economic ties that exist between the United States and countries in Asia and the Pacific are fortified by strong bonds of kinship and culture. All Americans are enriched by those ties, and thus we proudly unite in observing Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Congress, by House Joint Resolution 173, has designated May 1991 and May 1992 as "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of these occasions.
Now, therefore, I George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the months of May 1991 and May 1992 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, I call upon the people of the United States to observe these occasions with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifteenth.