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Celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities, celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

I have the honor of serving you, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, as Executive Director of the Initiative. During the month of May, I join you in celebrating the invaluable contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our country.

This month marks a time to acknowledge and honor those who came before us - who struggled and sacrificed so that we have the opportunity to achieve our collective American dream. It was this month that the first Japanese person immigrated to the United States, and it was this month that marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad built by thousands of Chinese workers. We pay tribute to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, who shared in America's common historical struggles to overcome racial, social and religious discrimination. Today Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders stand at over 16 million strong and are leaders in every sector of American life, including science and technology, culture and arts, business, medicine, education, and politics.

While we honor the immense contributions of our communities, we also recognize the challenges Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders still face. Southeast Asian American high school students dropout at a staggering rate, AAPIs are at high risk for diseases such as hepatitis, diabetes, and liver cancer, poverty rates plague some AAPI communities, and one in five AAPIs experience discrimination in rental and home buying processes. These are a few of the reasons why President Obama signed the Executive Order reestablishing the White House Initiative and the President's Advisory Commission on AAPIs.

In an effort to strengthen relationships and increase communication and access between federal agencies and AAPI communities, we are excited to be kicking off the "What You Should Know About Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders" campaign, in which we are partnering with federal agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Education, to hold a series of roundtable discussions and enlist Administration officials to hold dozens of events and local site visit across the country.

Growing up as an immigrant in the South, I have a deep connection to the mandate that guides the work of the Initiative and invite you to share your voice in our critical work. Please contact the Initiative at I look forward to working hand-in-hand to make federal programs and services better for our communities.

Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities