Vice President Biden Honors AAPIs at Heritage Month Opening Ceremony

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May 12, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Underscoring the immense importance the US administration accords to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), On May 6, Vice President Joe Biden headlined the official Heritage Month opening ceremony celebrating the heritage and achievements of the fastest growing community here in the US.

May 12, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Underscoring the immense importance the US administration accords to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), On May 6, Vice President Joe Biden headlined the official Heritage Month opening ceremony celebrating the heritage and achievements of the fastest growing community here in the US.

US Vice President Joe Biden is flanked by Congresswoman Judy Chu (Democrat – California) and Congressman Mike Honda (Democrat – California) at the opening ceremony for the 2014 AAPI Heritage Month

Some 600 people packed the Yates Auditorium in the Department of Interior, on a crisp Tuesday morning, for a sparkling event organized under the ensign of the White House Initiative on AAPIs.  It was a heartening sight – community members from all walks of life reflecting unity in diversity!

There were standing ovations and sustained applause for the Vice President, both when he came on stage and at the conclusion of his address in which he recalled his trip to India and acknowledged the sterling contributions of the AAPI community to every facet of American life.

Looking across the packed auditorium, he said, “The combination of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have done nothing, nothing but succeed, generation after generation.  Think of all the businesses that have been built, from the corner stores to Silicon Valley giants like Yahoo.  You have served our nation overseas”.

Shekar Narasimhan (center), new member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs is seen with Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi (left) and Amardeep Singh, Director of the Sikh Coalition, at the opening ceremony for the 2014 AAPI Heritage Month

A highlight of the event was Sri Srinivasan, US Circuit Judge, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, swearing-in fourteen new and two returning members to the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs.  The Commissioners will advise the Obama administration on issues of paramount importance to AAPIs, working to improve the quality of life for them through increased participation in, and access to, federal programs.  Of the distinguished new members who took the oath of office, on Tuesday, were three Indian-Americans: business leader and community activist Shekar Narasimhan; Lieutenant Colonel Ravi Chaudhary, a US Air Force officer; and popular film and television actor Maulik Pancholy.

Reflecting on this year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month, ‘I Am Beyond’, Judge Srinivasan said, “For me personally, the journey from oath-taker to oath-giver, that feels like moving beyond”.

For AAPIs collectively, he noted, “We have moved from a time when we were excluded to come here to a time when we are called upon by the country to serve.  We are very lucky to move beyond”.

Referring to how AAPIs are treading off the beaten path and excelling in spheres such as baseball, basketball, beauty pageants, Srinivasan told the gathering, “What this country affords us is the freedom to be and the opportunity to become”.  Regarding “the most quintessential of American competitions, Miss America”, he pointed out that the winner (Nina Davuluri), the first (Crystal Lee) and fourth (Rebecca Yeh) runner-ups this year were all Asian Americans.

“It is about moving beyond”, Srinivasan emphasized.  “Science fairs, maths competitions, Spelling Bees – that’s familiar territory to us.  But, the national pastime – baseball, basketball – and Miss America, that’s moving beyond”, he said, to much applause from the audience.

Asian American activists at the glittering opening ceremony for the 2014 AAPI Heritage Month hosted by the White House Initiative on AAPIs and US Department of the Interior

Srinivasan recounted how his late father came from India “from the humblest of humble beginnings”.  On his own part, the journey that has brought him to his current position “is inconceivable in so many ways, but it is familiar to so many of you in this room”, he said.  “We are all deeply grateful to our prior generations and to this country for affording us a chance to continue to move beyond”!

Presenting a strong case for Immigration Reform, a hot button issue in America, Vice President Biden declared, immigration is “the reason why we are strong.  It is not a burden; it is a blessing”, he said.

Biden noted that “immigration built and continues to build the country”.  With sensible immigration reform, “America will be stronger just like you have made us stronger”, he told the gathering of AAPIs.

Dr. Vivek Murthy (center), President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General, is seen with Monica Pham, staffer for Congressman Mike Honda (Democrat – California) and Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors For America

Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs, said, “We are honored to have Vice President Biden speak to the AAPI community at this historic moment in time.  AAPIs are fast on the rise, and it’s important to both recognize the community’s great diversity and the importance of government and community working together to address the unique challenges we face”.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM