From the NFRW Armed Services Committee
By Mary Smart, CAPT USN Ret (HI)
Every May we celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, recognizing the cultures of East, Southeast, and South Asia as well as the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. This population is approximately 7 percent of the United States, or approximately 22.9 million, and is the fastest growing ethnic group in the country.
The commemoration was originally established as a week long celebration by Public Law 95-419 on October 5, 1978. Later in 1990, Congress expanded the observance to the entire month of May. The month of May was selected to commemorate the first immigration of the Japanese to the U.S in May 1843 and to recognize the completion of the transcontinental railroad which was completed thanks to Asian immigrants who were the primary workforce that made the monumental infrastructure project possible.
The Federal Asian Pacific American Council, which represents Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employees in the Federal and District of Columbia governments, establishes the annual theme. In 2023, it is “Advancing Leaders through Opportunity.”
There are many ways to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, including reading books about prominent leaders, their country of origin and the events that motivated their immigration to the United States, preparing ethnically authentic foods and recipes for family meals, listening to Asian American and Pacific Islander music, and attending local community events celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month.