It’s May - which means it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, an annual US celebration of the historical and cultural contributions of people of AAPI descent. AAPI is defined as cultures from all across Asia, including East, Southeast, and South Asia, as well as the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The month of May was chosen as AAPI Heritage Month because it commemorates the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843. Later, others of AAPI descent arrived in the United States; the Japanese in the 1580’s, Chinese in the 1770’s and the first Koreans in the 1880’s. In the 1900’s Samoans and Vietnamese also emigrated to the US.

There are currently over 30 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States, accounting for over 10% of the overall U.S. population. This number is expected to increase significantly over the coming decades.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have not traditionally been featured in our history books although they have made major contributions to many aspects of American culture and society, including science and medicine, literature and art, sports and recreation, government and politics, activism, and the law. Some examples of well known Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders making a meaningful difference in the US are mentioned below:

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Ajay Bhatt

Ajay Bhatt is an Indian-born computer architect who led the team at Intel who created the USB. The USB was revolutionary for its time and is now known as the standard for connecting different devices and sharing information between those devices. One piece of advice that Ajay gives to those wanting to pursue a similar career is to be fearless and persistent.

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Vice President Kamala Harris

In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first Asian American Vice President of the United States. She became the first Asian American to appear on a national ticket after Joe Biden tapped her as his running mate in August, handing a victory to advocacy groups who said that “this decision will help galvanize the AAPI community.” The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants and one of the most prominent South Asians in American politics, Harris has accumulated a long list of firsts throughout her years in public service.

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Steve Chen

Steve Chen, a Taiwanese immigrant, is the co-founder of YouTube and has contributed to the pivotal shift in online video content production. Steve has become a role model for the next generation of Asian American philanthropists. He has led the way for young entrepreneurs who believe in investing in the community. Steve shared his optimism about the future of philanthropy saying, “We’ve reached a tipping point. Young entrepreneurs are finding their passions and are starting to give back.”

So get involved and help celebrate our nation’s diversity and AAPI Heritage Month! Learn about AAPI history. Read books with AAPI connections. Cook a new recipe and serve up some yummy dish from India, Hawaii or Thailand. Explore some Asian/Pacific music or art. Trace your AAPI roots and share your personal heritage, or celebrate a friend’s.

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