For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 10, 2007
President Bush Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Presents the Presidents Volunteer Service Award
3:26 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming, and welcome to the White House. I'm glad you're here. Fifteen years ago, my dad -- or as we call him around the house, "number 41" -- signed a law designating May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This afternoon, Number 43 -- (laughter) -- has the honor of continuing Number 41's tradition. And we're glad you're here. (Applause.)
I thank you for joining me to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Across our nation, Americans of Asian Pacific descent are leaders in fields from education to business to government. Every day, Asian Pacific Americans make our communities more vibrant -- and this afternoon, we honor the many contributions that are made to our great democracy.
I want to thank Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, for being here today. Madam Secretary, we're proud you're here. Thank you for serving. (Applause.) A former member of my Cabinet, now retired -- well, not exactly retired -- (laughter) -- but a close friend, Norm Mineta, is with us. Thanks for coming, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) You're looking pretty good. Yes, I see that. (Laughter.) I appreciate the fact that Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson is here. He cannot claim any Asian American heritage, but nevertheless, he is serving well. (Laughter.) Thank you for coming.
I appreciate the members of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders who are here today. Thanks for serving. Thanks for your good work. I want to thank the recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Award. We will talk about you all a little later on here. But we're honored you're here. I do want to thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us. Ambassadors, thank you for being here. We're honored to have -- by your presence. I do want to thank World War II veterans and Japanese American veterans who have joined us today. We're proud to have you here, and thanks for this great example you've set for those who wear the uniform today. (Applause.) We're really glad you're here. (Applause.)
The story of Asian Pacific Americans is an important part of the American story. During the 19th century, Asian Pacific Americans endured great hardships, for example, to lay the tracks for our first transcontinental railroad. During times of war, Asian Pacific Americans have defended our Nation with honor and courage. And during times of prejudice, Asian Pacific Americans have overcome discrimination to build strong and lasting communities in our country.
Today, more than 15 million Americans can trace their lineage to Asia or the Pacific Islands. We see the influence of these Asian Pacific Americans across all our society. All you have to do is look to see the tremendous impact our fellow citizens are making. It's a great passion for art and music which brings new culture -- new life to our cultures. The love of learning has helped improve our schools, and raise the standards for all children. A commitment to innovation and free enterprise has helped strengthen our economy and created jobs. In 2004, I formed a presidential advisory commission to examine ways of expanding economic opportunities for Asian Pacific Americans -- and tomorrow I will receive the commission's final report, and I'm looking forward to getting it.
As Asian Pacific Americans realize the opportunities of our nation, they're also answering the call to give back to our communities -- and by doing so they create new opportunities for others. Men and women of Asian Pacific descent volunteer their talents and time to help their neighbors in a lot of ways. This afternoon, we honor six Americans of Asian Pacific heritage with our nation's highest honor for community service: the President's Volunteer Service Award.
The volunteers we recognize have set a powerful example for all Americans. They have served important causes -- from providing aid to victims of natural disasters, to sharing the joy of science with students, to raising money for libraries in far away lands. These acts of kindness have changed lives; they've laid the foundation for stronger communities. And they really speak to the strength of America. Our strength is not our military, although we'll keep it strong, and our strength is not necessarily the size of our economy, although we'll keep it robust. The true strength of the country lies in the hearts and souls of citizens who hear the call to love a neighbor and do something about it.
One of the honorees is a Virginia Tech student. I had the privilege of meeting Adeel Khan. See, Adeel is the President of the student government at Virginia Tech. He took office shortly before the terrible violence hit that campus. He's had what we call a difficult presidency. (Laughter.) And yet he understood the need for leadership. He's an impressive guy. He worked hard with classmates to organize a campus-wide vigil. He helped bring that important community together. He dealt with the tragedy the way you'd expect a leader to deal with tragedy. This good young man helped lead his fellow students in healing. And we know, as he did so, it helped heal the entire nation.
We see the true spirit of the Asian Pacific American community in the compassion and decency of citizens like Adeel Khan. We're grateful for the many contributions that Asian Pacific Americans have made to our nation. We're proud to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I congratulate all the honorees. And now I ask Lieutenant Commander Roncska to read their citations.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER RONCSKA: Angela An. The President's Volunteer Service Award to Angela An: From 2004 to 2006, Angela served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Secondary Education program in Bulgaria, where she taught English and Information and Communication Technology to students age 12 to 18 at school in a town -- remote mountain town. In addition, she helped to organize a summer leadership camp for 40 youth from throughout the country called Camp GLOW -- Girls Leading Our World. Angela is currently an active volunteer at Sunrise Assisted Living Facility, and helps deliver groceries for in-bound senior citizens with Food for All. (Applause.)
Anna DeSanctis. Anna DeSanctis. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Anna DeSanctis: Anna created the Odyssey Project where she raised more than $22,000 in 18 months to help create libraries in four orphanages in the region of China where she was born. The project allowed her to help children learn about the world through reading. The additional funds leftover by the Chinese social welfare organizations were used to construct water wells in two remote villages. (Applause.)
Kay Hiramine. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Kay Hiramine: In 2001, Kay launched Humanitarian International Services Group -- HISG -- a U.S.-based humanitarian NGO that helps to find and to mobilize resources to meet humanitarian needs around the world, and to respond to disasters and emergencies. In 2006, HISG's activities involved more than 60 nations and 120 projects worldwide, and sent over $8 million in donated humanitarian assistance. (Applause.)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, HISG's team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane. (Applause.)
Adeel Khan. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Adeel Khan: In response to the tragic events at Virginia Tech on April 16th, Adeel has worked diligently to recognize [sic] Hokies United to promote school spirit and to help heal the community nationwide. Hokies United helped to organize a candlelight vigil at the university, which was attended by 40,000 students, faculty, staff and community members. Adeel serves as the president of the Student Body, is a member of the Student Alumni Associates, is treasurer of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, and is the office manager of the Collegiate Times Business Department. (Applause.)
Linda Uehara. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Linda Uehara: For over 40 years, Linda has been working with youth, families, schools and communities to promote and support safe and healthy lifestyles in Hawaii. In 2003, she was appointed by the Governor of the state of Hawaii to serve on the Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council, a group that affects services for about 1,800 youths each year. As a volunteer with the Hawaii Girls Court she co-facilitates Girls Street Smart, a life skills program for Asian and Pacific Island girls ages 12 to 18 years, and Girls Circle, a strength-based approach to honor gifts and talents, build healthy relationships, and address girls' needs. (Applause.)
Jonathan Wu. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Jonathan Wu: Jonathan established Science Alliance, a program that recruits high school honor students to work with 5th graders from 16 elementary schools on advanced science projects. The mentors and their "buddies" work together after school throughout the year learning about science, at the end of which all of the kids share their projects at a science fair extravaganza. Now in its third year, Science Alliance is currently providing valuable science training to more than 160 elementary school students. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming today. In our diversity we find our strength; in our hearts we find such wonderful compassion. Thank you all for setting a great example. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 3:39 P.M. EDT