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Honored to Serve

Daphne Kwok addresses her appointment as the Chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

It's a tremendous recognition and honor to be appointed by President Obama to Chair his Administration's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Advancing and empowering AAPI communities across the country has been at the center of my work for decades.

AAPIs are one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S. Our numbers are expected to nearly triple by 2050 — up from 15.5 to 40.6 million! The Obama Administration has an important role to play in anticipation of this rapidly changing landscape.

But it is important to remember that AAPI communities face unique challenges because our needs often intersect with indigenous and immigration-related issues. About two-thirds of us are foreign-born. That means our community is particularly vulnerable to immigration-related discrimination and discrimination on the basis of national origin and ethnicity or indigenous status.

Our communities must work together to confront wrongful discrimination and detrimental barriers to federal resources. A quarter of all AAPI students in compulsory education have limited English proficiency or lives in a linguistically isolated household with parents who can't read or write English well, signaling the need for resources towards language assistance programs. The "Model Minority Myth" portrays a misleading stereotype that says AAPIs have always done exceptionally well in this country. The myth that we are all smart, successful and self-reliant is, of course, false. Yes, there are many in our communities who are successful, but there are many who are struggling to make ends meet every day, especially after the tough economic times we've all seen in the past decade. This myth is detrimental to us, particularly in the halls of power where we're often left out of grant programs, scholarships, research funding and crime prevention efforts.

The crisis of the Gulf oil spill has been especially felt in our community. About 44 percent of shrimping vessels with federal permits in the Gulf belong to Southeast Asian American fishermen. Many of these fishermen can't get critical assistance because of language and cultural barriers.

Through the White House Initiative and this Commission, President Obama has created a vehicle to connect 16 million AAPIs with their government. It is with great honor that I accept this appointment and look forward to working together with the White House, federal agencies and community leaders and organizations to build a strong and united voice for some of our most underserved communities, and make a historic difference in working to meet the greatest needs of America's AAPI communities.

Daphne Kwok is the Chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders