WASHINGTON.—President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on May 1 declaring the month of May Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, stating, “during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we remember the challenges and celebrate the achievements that define our history.”
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have endured and overcome hardship and heartache. In the earliest years, tens of thousands of Gold Rush pioneers, coal miners, transcontinental railroad builders, as well as farm and orchard laborers, were subject to unjust working conditions, prejudice, and discrimination—yet they excelled. Even in the darkness of the Exclusion Act and Japanese internment, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have persevered, providing for their families and creating opportunities for their children,” Obama stated.
“Amidst these struggles, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed in great and significant ways to all aspects of society. They have created works of literature and art, thrived as American athletes, and prospered in the world of academia. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a vital role in our Nation’s economic and technological growth by establishing successful enterprises and pushing the limits of science. They are serving in positions of leadership within the government more now than ever before. And along with all of our great service men and women, they have defended the United States from threats at home and abroad, serving our Nation with valor.”
In 1978, a joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The first 10 days of May were chosen to coincide with the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed on May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a monthlong celebration. Per a 1997 Office of Management and Budget directive, the Asian or Pacific Islander racial category was separated into two categories: one being Asian and the other Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.
According to the Census, there are 15.2 million Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. or about 5 percent of the total population. Japanese comprise 1.22 million. The median household income for Asians is $66,103, the highest among all race groups. The Census estimated that by 2050 there will be 40.6 million Asians in the U.S., an increase of 153 percent.