Remarks on Signing the
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week Proclamation
May 3, 1988
be seated, and thank you and welcome, Members of the Congress, honored guests,
and ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to join you today in celebrating the
great contributions made to the United States by citizens of Asian
and Pacific island heritage. As you all know, next week marks the 10th
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. And this occasion is being celebrated
throughout the country. One of the events is a nationwide poster contest. And
the picture is right here, and we're pleased to have the winning artist here
with us today. She is a high school senior from Potomac, Maryland, Serena Lin.
country draws special strength from our rich cultural heritage and the shared
values that unite America. Asian-Pacific
Americans represent the full breadth of the American experience. For some,
their family roots reach deep into American history and the building of this
nation. Even before the American Revolution, the first sailors from the Philippines were settled here.
Other citizens have only recently come to our shores. They're among our newest
Americans -- who, like immigrants before them, have a unique appreciation for
the freedom and opportunity this country offers.
of Asian and Pacific heritage have enriched America in irreplaceable ways,
but at the same time each person's story is distinctly American, each is a
reaffirmation of the kind of country we are and the values that make us strong
and free. I think of Wendy Gramm, whose grandfather
came from Korea as a contract laborer
to cut sugarcane in Hawaii. Wendy's father went on
to become vice president of the same sugar company that her grandfather had
worked for in the fields. And last February, Wendy was confirmed by the Senate
as Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and I can't help but
note that one of the commodity futures she now oversees is cane sugar.
think of Hoang Nhu Tran, who as a child saw Americans
in uniform defending his native country of South Vietnam from Communist
aggression. And when North Vietnam violated the Paris peace accords and Saigon fell, Hoang and his
family were forced to flee. And they came to America. Last year, Hoang
graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, and he was valedictorian of
think of Sam Hayakawa. Born in Canada to Japanese immigrant
parents, he came to the United States as a graduate student
and never left. He once wrote: ``I was advised in my youth that there were many
jobs and careers I could not hope to aspire to because of my race.'' Well, he
became a noted expert on semantics, president of San FranciscoStateUniversity. And at the age of 70
-- the same year he took up scuba diving -- [laughter] -- he was elected to the
United States Senate from California.
think of Elaine Chao, whose father came here from Taiwan with just about $800.
He worked hard and saved for 3 years to bring the rest of his family over.
Elaine was eight when she boarded a freighter and made the long, slow journey
across the Pacific to Los Angeles, then down through the Panama Canal, then up to New YorkHarbor, where a little girl
saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. She became a banker, did
multimillion-dollar ship financing, then was named a
White House Fellow. On Friday, Elaine was confirmed as Chairman of the Federal
Maritime Commission, the first American of Asian-Pacific heritage ever to hold
for many groups, education has been a key ingredient in realizing the American
dream. And one area in which Asian-Pacific Americans have particularly excelled
is in education. Their accomplishments are proof that respect for learning,
family encouragement -- plus a whole lot of hard work and diligent study --
pays off with high grades, advanced degrees, and successful careers. I know
there's a growing concern that some universities may be discriminating against
citizens of Asian and Pacific heritage, accepting a lower percentage of these
applicants than get admitted from other groups, despite their academic
qualifications. Well, to deny any individual access to higher education when it
has been won on the basis of merit is a repudiation of everything America stands for.
everyone be clear, especially all recipients of Federal education funds, that
the use of informal exclusionary racial quotas, or any practice of racial
discrimination against any individual violates the law, is morally wrong and
will not be tolerated. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has noted the
problem of racially-motivated violence and harassment directed at Asian-Pacific
Americans. And in this regard, I have something to say about the hostile racial
undercurrent that sometimes accompanies the agitation for protectionism. A few
years ago, in Detroit, Vincent Chin, a
citizen of Chinese-American heritage, was beaten to death by two men enraged
over car imports from Japan. The point is this:
Political differences over trade policy are one thing, and we can debate them,
but racially-tainted appeals cross a very dangerous line. They're an affront to
this country, and they threaten the tranquility and safety of all of us here at
of Asian and Pacific heritage are one of the most successful groups in this
country. What they've achieved is a great reaffirmation of the American values
of work, education, family, and community. They've made this country the land
of opportunity. They've distinguished themselves in many fields, from science
and medicine to agriculture and commerce. They've contributed to our public
life through the arts and literature, and also in government. Asian-Pacific
Americans are part of the rich tapestry of American life. It's a tribute to the
unifying power of America that such a diverse
group whose members often have different national heritages, religious faiths,
and historical experiences all come together to celebrate this occasion and to
reaffirm our common bond as citizens of the United States. Let me give special
praise to the Asian Pacific American Heritage Council, whose help brings people
together -- or, whose work, I should say, helps bring people together, and
makes this special week of celebration a reality.
now it is my Irish-English -- [laughter] -- privilege to sign the proclamation.
Note: The President
spoke at in the Roosevelt Room
at the White House.