“The Impact of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Upon America’s Greatness” Program Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders proudly hosted an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month program, titled “The Impact of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Upon America’s Greatness,” at the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) on May 10, 2019. Participants included AAPI faith leaders, government and corporate leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, and senior federal leadership. The program mixed community recognition with Administration priorities to showcase the impact that AAPIs have upon America’s greatness historically and into the future.

The program began with the presentation of colors by the U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by Donna F. Carter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Initiative’s executive director, Holly Ham, provided program opening remarks that highlighted the 150-year anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869. This greatest of engineering feats in American history to date helped expand the American West into the 20th century and beyond. The railroad workers and their descendants were recognized and celebrated for this important work.

Secretary Betsy DeVos next provided welcome remarks that linked the building of the transcontinental railway 150 years ago with the tremendous contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to America. The secretary highlighted the Trump administration’s priorities of education freedom, workforce preparedness, and engaging the AAPI community to assist in counting everyone in the upcoming 2020 Census.

Secretary DeVos then invited Grace Lee, co-founder and CFO of Logic Solutions, Inc., to the stage to sign the company’s “Our Pledge to America’s Workers.” Logic Solutions, Inc. pledged 120 opportunities to develop training and internship programs for young professionals and students in the information technology field over the next five years.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the signing of “Our Pledge to America’s Workers” by Grace Lee of Logic Solutions, Inc.

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Asian American and Pacific Islander Education and Career Advancement in New York City

“Education and Career Advancement” was the theme of the latest outreach effort from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative).  On Feb. 28 and March 1, Holly Ham, the Initiative’s executive director, brought attention to these high priority issues by visiting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) educators and students and engaging with corporations in New York City.  Ham visited the High School of Economics and Finance (HSEF), where she participated in a roundtable discussion with Michael Stanzione, principal, and AAPI students. HSEF is an academically rigorous public high school offering students business courses and workforce preparation opportunities.  Students are given business training, such as job shadowing, internships and mentoring, through HSEF’s partnerships with corporations, including Citi Bank, Deutsche Bank, Etsy, KPMG, and Wells Fargo.  First-generation AAPI students at HSEF shared with Ham their academic and career plans, which have been shaped by their experiences with academic instruction and real-world activities in the finance realms.

Holly Ham and Principal Michael Stanzione with High School for Economics and Finance students

Students from Virtual Enterprise with Principal Stanzione and Holly Ham at the High School for Economics and Finance

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Ringing in the Lunar New Year With a Program and Celebration at the White House

On Feb. 12, 2019, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted a Lunar New Year Celebration in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House. In attendance were Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders from across the country and territories, and federal government officials. The event kicked off with senior Trump Administration officials providing welcome remarks and sharing economic and industry priorities, followed by vibrant cultural performances.

U.S. Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michelle Giuda addresses participants at the Lunar New Year Celebration

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Congressional Gold Medal Act Enacted to Pay Tribute to 20,000 Chinese-American World War II Veterans

On Dec. 20, 2018 President Trump signed into law the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act, which had been passed unanimously on Sept. 12, 2018, by the U.S. Senate (S. 1050) and unanimously on Dec. 12, 2018, by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2358). The bill passed the House five days before the 75th anniversary of the 1943 Magnuson Act, which repealed the regrettable Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Senator Duckworth with National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team.

S. 1050 sponsor Senator Tammy Duckworth with the National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team. (Photo by Esther Lee, C.A.C.A. Boston Lodge)

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The Year in Review

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.

Houston Community Reception

Community Reception during the National Meet and Greet Tour in Houston, Texas on January 16, 2018.

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White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosts National Leadership Summit at the White House

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) hosted the National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Leadership Summit at the White House. The summit was a joint effort among three organizations: the Initiative, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE). The Initiative had the goal of bringing awareness to the lack of AAPI representation at senior levels and to help advance more AAPI leaders in public, private, and nonprofit organizations. Therefore, it was truly amazing to see participants from all three sectors mingling and making connections with each other at the summit.

The opening remarks, delivered by Holly Ham, executive director of the Initiative, and keynote address by, Henry Childs, national director of MBDA, highlighted data across various industries that show that AAPIs, while having significant roles at the professional level, are limited at the management and executive levels. The future of our country is here, where minorities will soon make up the majority, and the environment of artificial intelligence and space are upon us — now! We were joined at the kick off by Melissa Fwu, associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, and Amar Shokeen, founder and CEO of RJT Compuquest and chairman of National ACE.

Holly Ham, Executive Director of the Initiative, giving her opening remarks.

Henry Childs, National Director of MBDA, providing the morning keynote address.

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Putting our Children First: Stopping Cyberbullying

This was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s Homeroom Blog

Recently I had the honor of speaking alongside First Lady Melania Trump, federal colleagues, academics and researchers, private firms and students at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Cyberbullying hosted at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

First Lady Melania Trump and Executive Director Holly Ham give opening remarks at the 6th annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Cyberbullying.

The First Lady opened the event and shared her passion and focus on protecting children, especially through online platforms. She highlighted the efforts of her “Be Best” Campaign, which focuses on major issues facing children today, including social media. Her presence signaled to our federal colleagues and private sector attendees that she was personally committed to protecting children and youth online. After her remarks she remained at the event to learn about this issue and how she can continue to make a difference.

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#RethinkSchool: From Language Skills to STEM to Industrial Training, Preparing AAPI Students for the Next Step

This was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s Homeroom Blog

I remember the excitement of going back to school after the long, hot summers in Texas where I grew up. Preparing for the first day back to school meant getting the book bag ready with new school supplies, selecting an outfit and thinking about all the familiar and new faces I would be seeing. That was a generation ago. Although the students going back to school now prepare in a similar way, they (and their parents and guardians) have a whole host of other things on their minds – school safety, being selected in special programs, college readiness and how to prepare for the workforce needs of the future.

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STEM and Workforce Development in Florida and Georgia

In mid-August, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders visited Florida and Georgia to engage with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) technical leaders. We started off by visiting the HSU Educational Foundation to learn about how its staff have engaged with youths, teachers and educators about STEM in Okaloosa County, in northwest Florida. It was particularly interesting to see how the foundation has been able to weave culture and soft skills into STEM activities. The foundation hosted a community convening on STEM Education and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), which included Okaloosa County commissioners, AAPI students and parents, school administrators, representatives from the Okaloosa School District, the Okaloosa Economic Development Council and chambers of commerce, Eglin Air Force Base officials, and industry leaders – all focused on STEM career readiness.  Several participants described their models of collaborative, public-private partnerships that aim to engage young students in the STEM concepts and skills that will be necessary to compete for high-demand technology jobs in the future. An eight-year-old student demonstrated her coding skills in operating a drone remotely from software code that she wrote on her computer. Executive Director Holly Ham shared the Initiative’s work on STEM, its engagement with the State-Federal STEM Summit and the development of the 2018 Five-Year STEM Strategic Plan. It was a vibrant gathering of a small, strong community that is closely knit by its vision and desire to work collaboratively for the continued development and improvement of Okaloosa’s economic and workforce future.

A parent and military spouse shares her background and science education during a STEM community convening in Okaloosa County.

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Achieving Gold: Asian American and Pacific Islander Students Convene for the 2018 Youth Summit

This was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s Homeroom Blog.

Domee Shi, creator of the Pixar Animation Studios short “Bao,” shares a lively moment during the Going for Gold panel.

After weeks of hard work, hours of meetings, and too many packets of instant coffee, we pulled it off – hosting the 2018 AAPI Youth Summit! Held yesterday at Google’s D.C. headquarters, this year’s gathering built on a tradition of connecting with young Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders.

Each year, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) invites AAPI students and interns to an event aimed to educate, connect, and inspire the next generation of AAPI leaders. This year’s theme, “Going for Gold,” highlighted trailblazer AAPIs across different industries and throughout the federal government.

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