Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus' (CAPAC) Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Good morning. Thank you all for your nice welcome. Thank you all for being here. I don't know where you'll go next year, you get larger and larger, and I think this is one of the biggest spaces in the Capitol. But it is wonderful to see so many of you here. The leadership and intellectual power that you bring to this debate, the constituents, in terms of your organizations that you represent. It's my honor to join my colleagues on being part of this welcoming CAPAC [Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus] ceremony.
“I'm so pleased that we're joined by a former Member, Congressman Underwood. Thank you for joining us, Congressman Underwood. He has so many titles, Congressman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary Norm Mineta, thank you for honoring us with your presence.
“I'm so pleased to join Congresswoman Chu, Congressman Sablan, Congressman Faleomavaega, Congressman Bobby Scott, and many of our other Members that will be coming in the course of the day.
“I have the privilege of representing San Francisco and I see some San Franciscans here today. We take great pride in California - we have over five million Asian Pacific Americans in California. We have numbers and percentages, and we're very proud of that for what it means. Because we believe that over the couple of hundred years that we have been blessed with newcomers to our country from the Asian Pacific area, we have not only welcomed them, many of them through the Golden Gate, but they have made every new comer, with their determination, their activism, their hope for the future, their family values, their commitment to community, to work, to academics, to the work ethic and to academics - every one of the newcomers from the Asian Pacific area has made America more American, with your determination and optimism for the future.
“Now some of you have been here, your families, for centuries, some for decades, and maybe some for days. But all of you are [contributing] to the reinvigoration of America. And that is our strength. The constant reinvigoration of new people. And we must appreciate that and welcome that.
“Congresswoman Judy Chu, the Chair of CAPAC, is a great leader. We're so proud of her. So proud that under her leadership, building on the hard work, and leadership, and success of others, was able to increase the number from 30 to 42 Members of our Caucus, people taking pride in their association, recognizing the numbers in their districts of people of CAPAC heritage. And also, she has setup the first meeting with the President of the United States. Which says a lot about our President, but it also says a lot about Judy Chu, that this is taking place.
“Congressman Honda, who I referenced earlier, spent seven years as head of CAPAC. We're very proud of his leadership, he's worked his entire career to strengthen the AAPI community. Thank you Mr. Honda.
“I know that we're honoring Senator Daniel Akaka at the meeting this week and isn't that appropriate? The first Chinese American to serve in the Congress of the United States. And to do so with such dignity, such pride. He was our colleague in the House, so we take some level of pride in the recognition that you're giving.
“It is appropriate, of course, that we come together in Asian Pacific Heritage Month. A time to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of the AAPI community and great diversity of our nation. Asian and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing and you said this Congresswoman Chu, our Chairwoman said this earlier, the fastest growing population in the United States. Your interest, and indeed, the interests of all Americans are well represented in the Congress by the CAPAC Members.
“This year, CAPAC has led the way on issues from civil liberties and voting rights, to creating jobs and strengthening small businesses, to working toward eliminating health disparities and on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.
“CAPAC is now hard at work on legislation - introduced by Chairwoman Chu, which she referenced in her introduction - to express the regret of the Congress for the Chinese Exclusion Act, and other discriminatory laws. Thank you Judy Chu, for your leadership. As the legislation says, it ‘will not erase the past…' but it will ‘illuminate the injustices of our national experience, and help build a better and stronger nation…' You worked hard to build bipartisan support for this bill and we remain hopeful that Republicans will allow us to vote on this legislation during this Asian Pacific Heritage Month. In order to have moral authority around the world, we must speak out against injustice, present or past, here at home.
“I was very honored recently to participate in ceremonies in Washington, many of you were here, and in San Francisco, to award the Congressional Gold Medal - the highest award Congress can bestow - to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. The cause of these brave patriots was not just the end of fascism, but took us closer to ending discrimination in our own country: they fought on behalf of Americas' ideal of equality, which really didn't exist at that time, but that is our heritage and our hope. But that time Norm, I talked about your extraordinary service in the Congress, that day when you were with us and honored us with your presence here in the Capitol, but also in San Francisco, your many friends support your leadership on all of these important issues. Let's hear it for Norm Mineta.
“Legislation to honor these proud accomplishments are just part of the agenda, we have some level of pride in the work that our AAPI Members participated in: passed health care reform, which brought the perspective to end health disparities in our country, very important, and to take public health concerns like Hepatitis B to the forefront. That campaign for us was launched in Chinatown, in San Francisco, because of the challenges that were faced in the community, our community there, across the board, not just the AAPI community, that was in the bill. Small Business - we passed legislation to create jobs and provide tax relief for 1.5 million AAPI-owned small businesses. We made college more affordable with the largest investment in student aid in our nation's history - and we will keep fighting to ensure that interest rates on student loans don't double this summer and that we fight attempts to lessen Pell Grants for our students who want to go to school. DREAM Act - in the House, with bipartisan support, we passed the DREAM Act to give young immigrants the chance to get an education, serve our country, and earn their citizenship. Thank you to our AAPI Members for helping us take that path.
“But others in Congress have different priorities and we have to look at this budget and its impact, the budget debate, its impact on AAPI communities. This choice that Members of Congress are going to have to make is a clear one: we have a budget that is being put forth and written up in the Budget Committee last night, I believe, that would end the Medicare guarantee. It would say to seniors: ‘in ten years we will end the guarantee, in the meantime, seniors will pay $6,400 more, for fewer benefits. And by the way, at the same time, we'll give a tax cut of $400,000 to people making over a million dollars a year.' How could that be fair? How could that be a statement of our values? And that will impact 900,000 members of the community, 900,000 members of the AAPI community will be affected by that. That budget will destroy four million jobs, again giving tax cuts to the high end that are not creating jobs, and instead of removing subsidies from Big Oil, they're saying to the middle class: ‘you're going to have to pay for that.' It slashes Medicaid, which covers nearly 25 percent of all AAPI children. It eliminates Pell Grants for 400,000 students.
“So, you have to, as you're here, and when we see you come here, we're so excited. It's like the first recruits have arrived, the cavalry has come to the Hill, to bring strength for America's working families, for the great diversity of our country in particular for the AAPI community. Your voice is being heard here, it's very important. We can only accomplish so much with our inside maneuvering here, the outside mobilization is absolutely essential to having the right policy for our country, to respect our diversity, to grow our middle class and make it thrive, and to strengthen our democracy, which is why many families came here in the first place from all over the world.
“And so we have to have that battle of the budget. And hopefully we can come to some bipartisan agreement, that's always our goal.
“I always say in my district, and I love to go home to my district, because you just get in the car and drive around and you see everything. You go through Chinatown, and you think ‘oh this is great,' Japantown. But you know what? These populations are citywide populations in our community. So we feel very, very, very blessed. And I'm feeling a little bit sad for some of my colleagues who don't have that invigoration, that joy to behold. Because I always say, when it comes to a community, ‘the beauty is in the mix.' And that is the beauty of America, the mix that we have, the mix that you bring to it.
“Asian and Pacific Islander Americans will continue to help shape our nation, define its future; this month in particular it's an honor for all of us to participate in celebrating a rich contribution and vibrant communities that represent AAPI.
“So, thank you. I wish you much luck in you deliberations. I'll see you later at the event, aren't we excited that President Obama, thank you Judy Chu, that President Obama and others, that the President of the United States will be joining us? And I'm sure he takes great pride in being raised in Hawaii, a place that is blessed with beautiful diversity from the AAPI community and his experience, Asian American appreciation goes even beyond that. So, on behalf of our House Democrats, in the spirit of bipartisanship, with great hopes for the future, congratulations on heritage month and good luck in your deliberations.