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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, VA Central Office
Washington, DC
May 10, 2012

Dr. Tsan, thank you for that kind introduction.

Special thanks as well to Steve Chan and all the members of the Asian Pacific American Committee for organizing and coordinating today's important event. Let me invite all committee members to stand, if you are able, or raise a hand so we can recognize you properly.

Let me also say thanks to:

  • Cynthia Leach for gracing us with the National Anthem, and the Reverend John Tung for invoking today's blessing. Thank you, both.

  • A special welcome to General Lorenzana from the Philippine Embassy. Thank you for joining us.

  • Secretaries Mooney, Riojas, and Sepulveda;

  • General Counsel Gunn and other VA senior leaders;

  • Dr. Barbara Cohoon, NMFA;

  • Representatives of several Veterans service organizations, including Sharon Hodge, Carlos Puertas, and Terry Shima;

  • Other distinguished guests, VA colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to VA's kick-off celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! I am pleased to extend my personal greetings to the more than 22,000 VA employees of Asian Pacific heritage.

Today's ceremony rekindles important ties to our past. It honors the creativity, determination, sacrifice, and toughness of the countless Asian Pacific Americans who have vested us with their legacy. For more than 200 years now, we have woven a rich tapestry of culture and contribution into the American way of life. With each new arrival on our shores, that gift continues, even today.

Guided by beliefs and traditions carried here from the "old countries"—more than 40 of them—our people passed on to us the importance of family, the dignity of hard work, the limitless opportunities through education, and the immutable value of personal honor.

From the Pacific Ocean to the Pacific Rim, their curiosity, industry, and entrepreneurship helped build America. From the early days when they toiled as laborers on our railroads, farms, and fisheries, to today, when they stand amongst the vanguard in every field of endeavor: religion, science, medicine, academia, music, the arts, the law, the military, sports, fashion, cuisine, public service, among many other fields.

There's no greater champion of America's Asian Pacific community than our own president. At a White House signing ceremony, in 2009, re-establishing his Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, President Obama affirmed his personal ties to our heritage when he said:

"When I talk about America's AAPI communities, I'm talking about my own family: my sister, Maya … my brother-in-law … my beautiful nieces … and the folks I grew up with in Indonesia and in Honolulu, as part of the Hawaiian ohana, or family."

The president understands deeply and connects strongly with the history and achievements, as well as the challenges and aspirations of 18 million Americans who trace their lineage to Asia and the Pacific Basin.

Representing almost one-quarter of the world's land mass, Asia Pacific's great mix of nationalities, cultures, languages, dialects, religions, and ethnicities make it one of the most diverse regions on the planet. It is to America's enduring benefit that this vibrant diversity continues to enable and enrich our own great "Nation of nations."

As we kick-off Asian Pacific Heritage Month 2012, we are honored to host one of our own—a former VA leader who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy from 1993 through 2001.

Secretary Ed Chow is the first Asian American to lead Maryland's Department of Veterans Affairs, serving more than 476,000 Veterans of the Old Line State. He is currently chairing Maryland's 2012 Asian American Business Conference for Governor O'Malley.

A Veteran, Captain Chow served in the United States Army from 1956 to 1967 and was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Vietnam. He is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America, where, from 2001 to 2005, he served as VVA National Vice-president.

Ed also served as Director of Programs for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies and as a member of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation Regional Board of Governors for the Greater Capital Area. He is a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Japanese American Veterans Association.

Ed's long career reflects his firm commitment to public service, to Veterans, and to fellow Asian Pacific Americans. We are honored to have him with us today. Please join me in welcoming our guest speaker, Secretary Ed Chow.