Since 1973, OCA has brought together diverse and far reaching communities for a common cause: to advance the social, political, and economic wellbeing of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the United States. Last week, I had the honor of addressing OCA at its 40th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C. and paying tribute to the organization’s history and legacy. OCA’s many accomplishments over the last forty years are a reminder that, individually, our voices are often swept into the wind, but when we speak together our words have the power to move mountains.
Even as we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we are reminded that important work remains to be done. AAPIs have prospered in this country as a direct result of our nation’s immigration system; but, as we know all too well, the system is broken and needs reform. The reform plan passed by the Senate modernizes the immigration system, secures the border, streamlines the process to citizenship, and is projected to add $1.4 trillion to our economy. AAPI immigrant entrepreneurs, small business owners, families, and leaders are key contributors to our nation’s future and growth. In the coming weeks and months, community leaders across the country have an opportunity to use their combined voices to raise awareness about the importance of commonsense immigration reform and the impact it will have on the AAPI community.
Our work does not end at immigration reform. One in five AAPIs lacks health insurance. AAPIs are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, but the least likely to seek the necessary preventative care. On October 1st, individuals, families, and businesses will have a one-stop shop to buy affordable health coverage. If all goes well, an estimated 2 million uninsured Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will be able to access the care they need. Through the implementation plan, we will once again call upon leaders in the community, like OCA, to build knowledge and raise awareness in the community about the host of resources available on HealthCare.gov.
OCA’s 40-year story reminds us that if AAPIs continue to raise their voices and continue to strive for prosperity, we will succeed, and the landscape of the community will be forever altered.
Tina Tchen is Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.