Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: “Leadership, Diversity, Harmony – Gateway to Success”

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nixomar Y. Santiago
  • 452 AMW/ME
May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month--a commemoration of the contributions and history of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The annual celebration was originally designated a week-long event in 1978 to mark the anniversaries of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869. In 2000, President George W. Bush designated May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 

This year's theme is "Leadership, Diversity, Harmony - Gateway to Success." 

There are countless Asian and Pacific Islanders who have become successful by giving example to leadership and made a positive contribution to the U.S. They represent a variety of fields ranging from arts and sciences to government and the military. Famous Asian and Pacific Islanders such as Elaine Chow, Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Michelle Wie and Allan Pineda Lindo have gained fame in their respective fields. The list of names goes on. 

Just as diverse as the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders are the different cultures, customs, history and languages each ethnic group possesses. 

"By the year 2007, the Asian American population increased to over 14 million with even more diversity among Asian American ethnic groups with many immigrants arriving from Korea, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Pakistan. There are 3.6 million Americans of Chinese descent, 2.9 million are of Filipino descent, 2.7 million are Asia-Indians, 1.6 million are Vietnamese, 1.5 million are Koreans and 1.2 million are of Japanese descent." (according to Karen Olender in an article titled Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month) 

Each national group has its distinct history of acculturation and assimilation into the American fabric. The original Asian and Pacific American immigrants to the country faced restrictive laws, racism and violence. Some immigrants were even barred from citizenship. Today the rules are less restrictive than they were. Immigrants have a high rate of assimilation and participation, bringing harmony to the American mosaic. 

These three elements -- leadership, diversity, and harmony -- are truly a gateway to success not only for Asian Pacific Islanders but for the country as a whole. 

The well-known figures such as Tiger Woods and Michelle Kwan have gained their spot in history with their successes. Let us not forget the lesser known Chinese railroad workers, Hawaiian sugar cane workers, Hmong refugees and others who fled their native countries in search for a better future. They too have earned a spot in history, though not as glamorous as Mr. Woods and Ms. Kwan. 

As a second generation Asian American, I have an awesome respect for what my parents and other families have gone through in seeking greener pastures. They taught me that diversity in America is what makes us great. As an officer in the U.S. Air Force, I have taught and seen the importance of our diversity here at home and while deployed. This is critical to our nation's success.