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May celebrates Asian-Pacific American heritage 
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America is a nation full of immigrants. Except for Native Americans, everyone who lives in this beautiful country has a family who started somewhere else. Some of those families came here hundreds of years ago, some came 50 years ago, some came five years ago and some just arrived. By living and working in America, we are all making this country what it is. American culture is a mixture of all the different cultures and customs of the people who’ve come here throughout our history, and it’s what makes America exceptionally unique. 

In light of our nation’s diverse heritage, May is the month we commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage and is a time to reflect on the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders to America’s history and culture. Asian-Pacific encompasses the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands); Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia); and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, Sens. Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

To learn more about the commemorative month, and about this year’s theme, “Lighting the Past, Present and Future,” visit: http://www.asianpacificheritage.gov/about.html.