PAWs - Promoting Awareness and Wellness
Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.
May 2011 – Asian Pacific American Heritage
History of the Celebration
May is designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage month; this is a time to distinguish and applaud the contributions of the Asian Pacific American community, which have impacted our history and enriched our culture. There are two significant reasons why May was designated to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage: in May of 1843 the first Japanese immigrants came to the United States and in May of 1869 the transcontinental railroad was completed and opened for use. In 1977, Frank Horton, Norman Mineta, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Senator Spark Matsunaga presented a proposal to the President of the United States for making the first ten days of May Asian Pacific Heritage Week. The proposal was accepted, and in 1978 President Jimmy Carter recognized Asian Pacific Heritage Week as a national event. Then, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared the entire month of May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Asian Pacific region includes the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
President Obama Honors Asian Pacific Americans
In 1999, the office of President Bill Clinton established an advisory committee whose goal was to increase access, opportunity, and quality of life for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The initiative, which was seen across all federal agencies, sprang from a recognition of the challenges that many members of the Asian Pacific American communities contend with, such as health discrepancies, educational inconsistencies, and workplace barriers. During President George W. Bush's term, the initiative was inactive in the Department of Education. On October 14, 2009, in an effort to restore the White House initiative supporting Asian Pacific Americans, President Barak Obama signed an Executive Order that reestablished the advisory committee.
Several notable leaders of the Asian American Pacific Islander community attended the signing of the Executive Order, including:
- Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Tammy Duckworth, Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
- Harold Koh, Legal Advisor to the Department of State
- Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health for the Department of Health and Human Services
- Representatives Mike Honda, Joseph Anh Cao, and Mazie Hirono
- Wat Misaka, the first non-white player in the NBA
- Many Japanese American World War II veterans
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) was also invited to attend, and EunSook Lee, the then Executive Director of NAKASEC, filmed the proceedings. NAKASEC has kindly shared their recording of President Obama's speech:
Chinese Americans and the Transcontinental Railroad
Chinese Track Layers in the Tehachapi Mountains. Photo used with permission from Santa Clarita Valley [Calif.] Historical Society, SCVHistory.com.
In 1862, the United States undertook one of its greatest accomplishments — the creation of a transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad Company built track westward from Omaha, NE, and the Central Pacific Railroad Company built track eastward from Sacramento, CA. Central Pacific had the task of navigating the rough terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, while Union Pacific crossed flat prairie plains. Not surprisingly, the Central Pacific Railroad Company struggled to maintain employees and make progress on their portion of the railroad. By 1865, many Americans of Chinese descent were employed as railroad workers; it is estimated that Chinese Americans made up two-thirds of the entire railroad workforce. While they were not given equal considerations as other employees, the Chinese Americans were dedicated employees and "quickly earned a reputation as tireless and extraordinarily reliable workers — quiet, peaceable, patient, industrious, and economical" (Mintz, 2007). Without the dedication and diligence of the Chinese American workers, the transcontinental railroad would not have been completed and one of the United States' greatest accomplishments would not exist.
The Infamous 442 Regiment
In February 1942, the 442 Regiment was enlisted into the United States Army. The Regiment was made up of Japanese American men, many of whom were naturalized citizens of the United States. The 442 Regiment fought numerous battles in Europe during World War II, even though the Japanese American people were facing discrimination and cruel internment back in the United States. Despite the circumstances, "the men proved from the beginning to be willing, conscientious, loyal, and anxious to prove their devotion to their country" (442nd Regimental Combat Team Historical Society, 2011). Twenty-one Medals of Honor were awarded to members of the 442 Regiment; to this day, the 442 Regiment remains the most decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces.
Additional resources including national celebratory events, educator resources, and historical insights can be found on the Smithsonian Education website. The Library of Congress' website also provides wonderful resources, including a Veterans History Project.
Test Your Knowledge!
The Pacific Asian Advisory Council (PAAC) created a quiz to test your Asian Pacific American Heritage knowledge. Download the quiz:Asian Pacific Heritage Month Quiz
After you complete the quiz, you can download the answers:Asian Pacific Heritage Month Quiz Answers
Kristine Takemoto: Ashford University Student Access & Wellness Specialist
My name is Kristine Takemoto. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, and a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University. I work as a Student Access & Wellness Specialist for Ashford University, which means I assist students through the process of requesting and receiving academic accommodations for their coursework, and then help them effectively utilize those accommodations within their courses. I also act in a supporting role to university faculty and staff, helping them better serve students with disabilities. I have a wonderful husband, and we currently live in San Diego, CA.
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai'i, and I am of Japanese and Korean descent. While Hawai'i is a place where people from many different backgrounds and cultures come together, individuals of Asian descent make up a large portion of the population. Most of my family resides in Hawai'i.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is important to me because celebrating my heritage means acknowledging, appreciating, and embracing my culture and background. I enjoy engaging in activities that help me honor who I am, so I make a point to get involved with various community and family activities throughout the year.
One such occasion of significant cultural value to me is the New Year, which is recognized on January 1. My family engages in Japanese traditions by preparing and serving specific foods that are believed to bring good luck, wealth, and good health. Maki sushi is one of these dishes: a rice roll with seasoned vegetables or fish in the middle. It typically has roasted nori (seaweed) rolled around it. Another is kuromame, a seasoned black bean believed to bring good luck to those who consume it. Mochi is another treat traditionally enjoyed during this time of year — a pounded sweet rice snack, shaped into individual round portions, similar to dumplings. They often have a black bean filling in the middle. Some mochi is typically prepared without the black bean, and tradition holds that the patriarchal head of the family uses this mochi to make a New Year's Day soup, called ozoni, for breakfast.
To anyone looking to learn more about Asian Pacific American Heritage, I suggest spending time with someone who is of this heritage, and simply talking about their experiences, values, and perspectives. You might also arrange to participate in a cultural occasion with that person so that you can witness and engage in the experience.
442nd Regimental Combat Team Historical Society (2011). 442nd REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM. Retrieved March 10, 2011 from
442nd Regimental Combat Team Historical Society (2011.) Company F Cadre, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, February 1943. Image retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://www.the442.org/tributes.html
Mintz, S. (2007). Chinese Immigrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Digital History. Retrieved March 10, 2011 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/china1.cfm
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). (October 14, 2009). Press Statement: Renewing a Commitment to AAPI Communities: Signing Of Executive Order for White House Initiative on AAPIs. Retrieved March 22, 2011 from http://nakasec.org/blog/1642
President Obama Signing Executive Order for White House Initiative for AAPIs. (October 14, 2009). YouTube. Video retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEjMT1wNndc
Santa Clarita Valley [Calif.] Historical Society (n.d.). Chinese Track Layers Tehachapi Mountains. Image retrieved March 22, 2011 from
SF PACC (April 27, 2009).2009 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Retrieved March 11, 2011 from