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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Message for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2013
Washington, DC
May 1, 2013

Our country's cultural richness stems from the many immigrant and native legacies which bind us as one Nation from many peoples. Our strength as a Nation resides in the hearts and minds and spirit of our people, united in preserving freedom and justice, and in our willingness to work hard to earn our own way. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have contributed enormously through language, the arts, music, literature, science, and medicine, adding their own hopes and dreams, to the countless threads that give color and resilience to the fabric that is America.

Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month commemorates both the arrival of the first immigrant Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, linking our Nation's east and west coasts. So many Chinese immigrants were instrumental to this uniting of the continent. And so many Asian and Pacific Islander Americans since have likewise served and sacrificed for our country. More than 292,000 of them have defended this Nation. Over 67,000 men and women of Asian and Pacific Islander descent currently serve on duty in our Armed Forces around the world.

America is safer, and our democracy is stronger, because of their service in uniform. These Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, from the first brave immigrants to today's generation of vibrant Americans, have made positive and lasting contributions to the greater good of our society.

Their impact has been truly significant—from operating small businesses to leading multinational corporations; from teaching in our most rural classrooms to lecturing in our greatest universities; from volunteering to care for the sick and homeless to commanding the formations which defend us, preserving peace in a dangerous world. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are fully interwoven into every aspect of American life, bringing with them the hopes and dreams to build an ever-greater America.

On behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is a privilege to celebrate the rich histories of all Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, including over 22,000 of our co-workers, during this month which honors their heritage.