RAFU WIRE SERVICES
WASHINGTON.—President Barack Obama is re-creating a federal panel to address concerns of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to work on improving their health, education and economic status.
At the White House on last Wednesday, Obama signed an executive order restoring the White House Advisory Commission and Interagency Working Group. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will serve as co-chairmen.
The panel was created during the Clinton administration. But it expired during George W. Bush’s presidency and was not reauthorized. The commission is tasked with the development, monitoring, and coordination of executive branch efforts to improve the quality of life of AAPIs through increased participation in Federal programs in which such persons may be underserved. In his remarks, Obama cited boosting support for small business, upholding the voting rights act and funding for health as areas that would be impacted by the commission.
“Some Asian American and Pacific Islanders, particularly new Americans and refugees, still face language barriers. Others have been victims of unthinkable hate crimes, particularly in the months after Sept. 11th — crimes driven by ignorance and prejudice that are an affront to everything that this nation stands for,” said Obama.
“And then there are the disparities that we don’t even know about because our data collection methods still aren’t up to par. Too often, Asian American and Pacific Islanders are all lumped into one category, so we don’t have accurate numbers reflecting the challenges of each individual community.”
Japanese Americans were represented in the gathering and acknowledged by Obama, including VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Terry Shima, Private Jake Kirihara, executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association and former New York Knicks guard Wat Misaka.
During the ceremony, Obama also observed Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights,” a holiday celebrated across faiths in India.
The president also acknowledged his own family ties in his remarks.
“And on a personal note, when I talk about America’s AAPI communities, I’m talking about my own family: my sister, Maya; my brother-in-law, Konrad; my beautiful nieces, Suhaila and Savita; and the folks I grew up with in Indonesia, and in Honolulu, as part of the Hawai’ian Ohana, or family,” Obama said.