Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide during the month of May to honor the cultures, traditions, and achievements of Asian Pacific Islanders in the United States.
In June of 1977, Congressmen Frank Horton (NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (CA) introduced a House resolution that called upon the President to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. May was chosen because in 1843 during the first week of the month, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in America. Also on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad, built with Chinese labor, was completed.
In July of 1977, Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both bills were passed, and on October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual week of celebration.
In May of 1990, President George H.W. Bush designated the entire month as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Since 1999, Congressman David Wu (OR) and the co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus have supported the celebration of Taiwanese American Heritage Week starting each Mother’s Day Weekend during the month of May.
In 2003, Congressman Wu wrote, “As the only Member of Congress born in Taiwan, I join the Taiwanese American community in celebrating the heritage week. At this time, it is important to recognize the community’s successes, but also work to promote mutual values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” Congressman Robert Wexler of the Taiwan Caucus also noted, “It is an honor and privilege to join the Taiwanese American community in celebrating Taiwanese American Heritage Week. I believe that it is incredibly important to recognize and salute the Taiwanese American community for their numerous accomplishments and for their deep commitment to the United States and its ideals of democracy, freedom and justice.”
In celebration of Taiwanese American Heritage Week during 2010, most major cities across the United States host festivals, fairs, or performances honoring our history and culture. Continue to follow TaiwaneseAmerican.org to find an activity near you!
A Look Back to 1999…
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) issued the following statement the week prior to first celebration of Taiwanese American Heritage Week in May 1999. It is reprinted here because the message then remains applicable today:
President Clinton has designated the month of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Henceforth, the month of May will call for a national celebration and commemoration of innumerable contributions that Asians and indigenous Pacific Islanders have made in American life. Accordingly, how one celebrates reflects the diversity of the distinct communities of Asian/Pacific Americans.
As Taiwanese-Americans, we designate that one week every May as Taiwanese-American Heritage Week during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. This week will be dedicated to recognizing and appreciating several aspects of Taiwanese-American Heritage in the United States.
As a community, we have our share of heroes and heroines. They have enriched every aspect of our society with their talents, intellect, and activism. We celebrate the likes of artists, scientists, researchers, human rights defenders, and many others who have contributed to the social status of the Taiwanese and Taiwanese American today. We also remind ourselves that, through all these years, many people in our community risked their lives legitimizing their identity as Taiwanese Americans and promoting and advocating democracy on Taiwan. As a community, we should take their experiences as our precious heritage and enrich the Taiwanese culture here in the United States and everywhere else.
As a corollary to honoring what has been achieved, there is the need to discover and inquire about that remains to be tackled. While Taiwan has established a model democracy, there remains political issues that are uniquely Taiwanese. Gaining worldwide recognition of the legitimacy of Taiwan’s government and our people in paramount. With all that we have accomplished as both Taiwanese and Taiwanese-Americans, there can be no complete satisfaction until Taiwan’s status and global contributions are respected and appreciated.
With President Clinton’s proclamation of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, he has empowered all Asian and Pacific Americans to take an active part in the unique interests of our community and the Nation as a whole. As such, the stage is set for the promotion of Taiwanese-American Heritage Week. The celebration, however, begins within each individual upon reflection and understanding on one’s roots. Thereafter, the enrichment continues as we share with others our heritage, and execute action plans that address what remains to be resolved and achieved.
In the spirit of Taiwanese determination and American volunteerism, we urge all to explore the significance of both Taiwan and being Taiwanese, and how that makes one an even better active American!
A Presidential Greeting…
On May 3, 1999, President Clinton wrote to all Taiwanese Americans:
Warm greetings to all observing Taiwanese American Heritage week.
America has been continually renewed and enriched by the many different people who choose to come here and become our fellow citizens. Each brings a part of his or her own heritage, which over time becomes part of our common heritage.
As we seek to become a more united people, we must not forget our roots, for they remind us of who we are and of what we have to share with others. Americans of Taiwan descent can be proud of their roots and of their vital role in the continued growth of our nation. From business to the arts, from government to academia, they have strengthened our nation and enriched our cultural heritage.
This observance offers us an opportunity to learn more about the outstanding contributions that men and women from Taiwan have made to our nation and the world. During this special week, let us all remember to cherish the diversity that is America’s greatest strength and to celebrate the spirit of community that binds us together as one nation.
Among the endorsing Taiwanese American organizations were:
Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA)
Professor Chen Wen-Chen’s Memorial Foundation
Formosan Association for Human Rights
North America Hakka Association
Taiwanese American Citizen League
North American Taiwanese Women’s Association (NATWA)
North American Taiwanese Professors Association (NATPA)
North American Taiwanese Medical Association (NATMA)
Taiwanese American Association (TAA)
Taiwan Hakka Association for Public Affairs in North America
Wang Kang-lu Memorial Foundation
World United Federation for Independence