Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders celebrated the Lunar New Year at the White House on February 16. With nearly 200 guests in attendance and many more community members from across the country tuning-in to the live broadcast, we joined together in celebration of the strength of the AAPI community and the start of the Year of the Monkey.
Alissa Ko, Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, and Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, reflected on fond childhood memories of celebrating Lunar New Year and the opportunity it brings for families and communities to come together. Alissa discussed the major accomplishments this Administration has seen and progress to be made as we look ahead, and Tina shared a special message from the President and First Lady. The celebration featured lively cultural performances from the Chinese Youth Club of Washington, DC, Washington Sorichung, and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ.
The Initiative also previewed the upcoming Champions of Change for AAPI Art and Storytelling event, discussing the critical role artists and storytellers play in highlighting AAPI experiences, increasing awareness around key AAPI issues, and encouraging diversity and inclusion in all sectors of society. Daphne Kwok from the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs moderated a panel with Chris Kang, National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans; Jeanny Kim, Acting Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, an Emmy-Award winning composer and musician. Panelists shared their Lunar New Year memories, spoke about the diversity of their experiences and upbringings, and highlighted the power of the arts and storytelling in tackling key issues that affect the AAPI community such as immigration, discrimination and attacks, and the model minority myth, among others.
2016 is the Year of the Monkey. The monkey is often associated as a symbol of versatility and movement. We wish for a year of positive movement – moving immigration reform, healthcare access, educational opportunities, and much more in the right direction to help AAPIs prosper and improve their quality of life. On behalf of the Initiative, I wish you and your loved ones happiness, prosperity, fortune, good health, and a Happy New Year!
Bessie Chan is a Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which is housed within the Department of Education.