Speech Honoring Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Month
Washington, May 28, 2021, May 28, 2021
Tags: Native Hawaiians
Each year we come together to recognize May as Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Month, in celebration of the critical participation of our Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities in our national story.
Over the past year, the pandemic has highlighted the harsh disparities that too many in the AANHPI community face across several issues, including access to health care, education and more. Our nation has also seen an unprecedented rise in hate-driven violence against Asian Americans. As Congressman from Hawai‘i, the state with the highest percentage of Asian Americans in our country, I stand in full solidarity with all in the AANHPI community in confronting, condemning and overcoming this desecration of that story.
My own mentor, U.S. Congressman and Senator Spark Matsunaga, understood that the way forward amongst all peoples was not through violence or discrimination, but through peace, education and understanding. He and his generation of Asian-Americans in the WWII era prevailed through extreme hardship to live the belief that peace and equality are not just ideas and aspirations but achievable reality.
In my home state of Hawai‘i, we have been blessed with so many AANHPI leaders whose actions continue to guide us. Senator Matsunaga’s legacy lives on in the U.S. Institute of Peace, which he created through an act of Congress in 1984. Congresswoman Patsy Mink’s Title IX legislation is the foundation of equal opportunity in our schools. The songs Queen Liliu’okalani wrote are beloved memorials to the perseverance of Hawaiian culture. This July, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the enactment of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole’s Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which helped return the Native Hawaiian people to the land that holds such deep ancestral, cultural and spiritual significance. Through these leaders and their successors, we see that despite generations of hardship and trial, AANHPI communities are standing strong and have led the charge to make our country better.
To AANHPI everywhere and especially the close to 80% of my own constituents whose heritage lies in Asia and the Pacific, I am truly honored to elevate your voices in the halls of Congress, and understand that a single month of remembrance is not enough. There is far more to be done, as a community, as a state and as a nation.
This May, in our 29th year of observing AANHPI month, I urge all of my fellow Americans to listen to the lessons of our past so we may act in the present to pave the way for our future.