Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the White House, 5/28/13

“We’re all part of the same ohana“: Remarks by the President at AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

“But it’s more than food and family — because generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders helped build this country, and helped to defend this country, and to make America what it is today. It’s a history that speaks to the promise of our nation — one that welcomes the contributions of all people, no matter their color or their beliefs, because we draw from the rich traditions of everybody who calls America home. “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one.

And the artists joining us today exemplify that creed. So we’ve got performers like Karsh Kale, who fuses the best of East and West, mixing eclectic beats with the sounds of his heritage and creating music that’s distinctly his own — that’s a trait, obviously, that’s distinctly American. We’ve got musicians like Paula Fuga and John Cruz, whose work represents the spirit of my native Hawaii and reminds us that we’re all part of the same ohana. We have authors like Amy Tan, who uses her own family’s immigration story to trace the stories of others. She makes out of the particular something very universal.

We value these voices because from the very beginning, ours has been a nation of immigrants; a nation challenged and shaped and pushed ever forward by diverse perspectives and fresh thinking. And in order to keep our edge and stay ahead in the global race, we need to figure out a way to fix our broken immigration system — to welcome that infusion of newness, while still maintaining the enduring strength of our laws. And the service and the leadership of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have proved that point time and again.

So we take opportunities like today to honor the legacy of those who paved the way, like my friend, the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese American to serve in Congress — and to celebrate the pioneers of this generation, like Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, one of the first female veterans elected to Congress. (Applause.) And one of my favorite people right now, Sri Srinivasan, who has just been confirmed. (Applause.) Here’s Sri, right here. (Applause.)

I was proud to nominate Sri, and he was just confirmed unanimously to become the first South Asian American federal appeals court judge. (Applause.) I was telling his kids, who are here today, if he starts getting a big head, walking around the house with a robe — (laughter) — asking them to call him “Your Honor” — (laughter) — then they should talk to me. (Laughter.)

In every election, at every board meeting, in every town across America, we see more and more different faces of leadership, setting an example for every young kid who sees a leader who looks like him or her. And that’s a good thing. We’ve got to keep that up. We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure everybody works hard, everybody plays by the rules, everybody has a chance to get ahead — to start their own business, to earn a degree, to write their own page in the American story — that the laws respect everybody, that civil rights apply to everybody. That’s who we are at our best and that’s what we’re here to celebrate. That’s the challenge that I believe we’re going to meet together.”

Full text:

Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company performs at the White House as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration.

Author Amy Tan at the White House AAPI Heritage Month celebration.

Paula Fuga and John Cruz perform at the White House AAPI Heritage Month. celebration

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: news, fact sheets, guide of federal resources, information for limited English-proficient persons, related videos:


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