US Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

by Cynthia De Castro/

LOS ANGELES – Across the United States last week, the month-long celebration of the Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month began with community festivals, government-sponsored cultural activities, and educational activities for students.

President George W. Bush led the country in May 1 with an affair in the White House. In his speech, President Bush mentioned the many Asian Pacific Americans in his administration and their vast contributions to the country.

Bush thanked all Asian Americans  “for helping make America a better place. We thank you for loving our country the way you do. Thank you for being great contributors to the life of our fellow citizens.”

“We honor citizens … who are now an integral part of America. More than 15 million Americans claim Asian or Pacific ancestry. They make America’s culture more vibrant, and we’re a better place — and a more lively place, I might add — from Songkran celebrations in Los Angeles to Chinese New Year parties in Chicago to Diwali festivals right here at the White House,” he said.

Bush highlighted the business contributions of Asians to the country’s economy. “Asian Pacific Americans make our country more competitive. It turns out there’s a great entrepreneurial streak that runs throughout the citizens whom we honor today. Small business owners all over America are creating new jobs and are living the dream. They enrich America because of their love for America,” the President said.

Another major contribution of Asians that the President cited was in the area of national and international security. “We’re working with nations all throughout the world, including those in the Asian Pacific region, to protect our peoples from the true threats of the 21st century. We’re working with Pakistan and Indonesia and Malaysia and the Philippines and other partners — and Singapore and other partners — to dismantle terrorist networks and to combat the ideology of the extremists,” he stated.

LA Mayor Villaraigosa and API American Heritage

In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaragoiza and the City Council officially declared the opening of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month last May 9 in the City of Los Angeles. During the affair, a proclamation ceremony was held in the City Hall Council Chambers in North Spring St, LA where the Mayor awarded four outstanding Asian honorees who received the City’s Spirit, Dream, and Hope awards. A reception followed at the City Hall Forecourt attended by a huge number of Asian Americans.

The Spirit of Los Angeles honoree was Deputy Chief Terry S. Hara, the Commanding Officer for Operations West Bureau (OWB), responsible for overseeing the geographic area operations of: Hollywood, Wilshire, West Los Angeles, Pacific, Station #20, the LAX Substation, and the West Traffic Divisions. Deputy Chief Hara joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in February 1980 and is the highest ranking and the first Asian American to achieve the rank of Deputy Chief on the LAPD.

The Dream honorees of Los Angeles are Peter and Charlie Woo, brothers and co-founders of Megatoys, a toy manufacturing company headquartered in Los Angeles, with an office in Hong Kong and manufacturing plant in China. They are also known as the founders of the Los Angeles Toy District, credited with turning the once blighted industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles into a thriving international trade center, where they helped hundreds of immigrant entrepreneurs start their businesses and create thousands of jobs.

The Hope of Los Angeles awardee is Takashi Saito, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Japan-born All-Star closer, who registered 24 saves in his rookie year of 2006 and 39 saves during the 2007 season. The 38-year-old was a 2007 National League All-Star, and one of 10 finalists for the “DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award.”

It is estimated that there are 14.9 million US residents as of July 2006 who said they were Asian alone or Asian in combination with one or more other races. The Filipinos make up the second largest Asian group next to the Chinese.

The Department of State reported in 2007 that the Filipino American community was estimated to be at 4 million, or 1.5% of the United States population. More than half of the community are either naturalized or American-born, while the remainder are Filipino nationals of dual citizens of both the Philippines and the United States.


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