It has been a busy – and wonderful – 2018! While we officially kicked off the National Meet and Greet Tour in December 2017 in the Great Lakes Region, I enjoyed meeting many of you in your hometowns as the tour stopped through seven of 10 federal regional areas before it concluded in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, I appreciated the invitations to several of your events showcasing the amazing work and leadership of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) across the country. I was also honored to visit and participate in events at local schools, community-based organizations, and AAPI-owned small businesses. This year was primarily about increasing community engagement, establishing the federal interagency working group among other federal resources, and ensuring we have a strong foundation going into 2019.
Visiting local communities gave me an up-close opportunity to listen to your concerns and needs. You all showed appreciation for our work through your warm hospitality. You also opened your hearts and minds to the priorities of the administration and to learning about how our office works across the federal government to support your communities. In Chicago, the pan-Asian groups across the city do very well coalescing and working together to make a huge difference for AAPIs there. The Carolinas are truly focused on developing this growth area with direct investment in their businesses, schools, and facilities. All along the West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles, the AAPI communities want to be heard with regard to the new administration priorities for education, small businesses, immigration reform, and health access. In Iowa where new migrants from Bhutan and Burma are settling in, the small AAPI community is channeling key resources to help them assimilate into America’s heartland communities. In the Southcentral part of the country, nothing stops Houstonians from supporting one another when it comes to rebuilding lives, schools, businesses, and communities. The Cambodian farming community there is obtaining federal assistance to get back on its feet with new farming ideas and markets. In Phoenix, the pipeline for AAPI leaders is growing as this community is faced with assisting its aging seniors with health and transportation access. In northwest Florida, many communities collaborate across the region to ensure that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and enrichment programs are available to all students – no matter their background. Georgia’s population is growing and so is its AAPI community, which causes a demand in services for families, students, seniors, veterans, and those seeking to become Americans.
We also held cultural celebratory events during Lunar New Year in February, countless events in May celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and, recognizing the significant contributions of Filipinos in America in October, the Filipino American History Month celebration at the White House. I also met with several national and local community-based organizations which was enlightening and helpful in informing our work.
Here in D.C., we hosted a number of events to bring AAPI communities together with federal partners to bridge the gap between need and resources. In May, almost 200 community leaders engaged with administration senior officials at the Community Leaders Forum to discuss key issues impacting AAPIs across the country and territories. We also co-hosted the National AAPI Business Summit with the Minority Business Development Agency and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship to address needs of AAPI businesses and entrepreneurs. The Youth Summit held in August is always a great event to focus on young AAPI leaders, provide guidance as they wrap up their summer internships in D.C., and head back to school and finish their studies. And in November, aspiring leaders, junior leaders, and senior leaders came together for the National AAPI Leadership Summit at the White House to address and advocate for AAPIs in senior leadership roles across the public sector, private sector, and nonprofit organizations.
The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention hosted a Cyberbullying Summit in August, with our office helping to kick it off with special guests first lady Melania Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Our office continues to play a key role by highlighting that bullying has no place in our communities, especially schools and places where our youth are learning and engaging. I visited schools in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington for the Department’s Back-to-School tour. I was honored to join Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and 15 other Department officials to cover 46 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia in highlighting innovative approaches to education that are meeting the needs of individual students.
Finally, our mission would not be fulfilled if it were not for the work of federal agencies that partner with us through the Interagency Working Group (IWG). We held the inaugural IWG meeting in June and concluded this year with another meeting in mid-December. This continued intra-agency and inter-agency work to drive improvements in the AAPI community showcases their enthusiasm in their agency plans and programs across the country.
A Strong Foundation for 2019
In the New Year we look forward to engaging with more communities across the country and territories. With Census 2020 just around the corner, we have formed an Interagency Working Group Census Task Force to ensure that our communities are receiving accurate information in a timely and efficient manner for participation in the census. May 2019 will mark the sesquicentennial of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, a significant milestone in American history that helped with our country’s transportation, trade, and prosperity. The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities have so much to be proud of with so much to look forward to in 2019.
On behalf of our team here at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!
Holly Ham is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.