The Walter Reed Bethesda community celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a program featuring native dancers and foods on May 10 in the atrium of the America Building.
The Filipino-American Association of Bethesda performed the "Sinulog" festival dance, while Jake Cortes, a native of Cebu City, Philippines, sang and played the acoustic guitar. Ohana of Polynesia Inc., performed a cultural hula dance that got Soldiers, Sailors and civilians up and moving to the music. The Bethesda Multicultural Committee and Filipino-American Association of Bethesda sponsored the event.
"May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and this year's theme is 'Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion,'" explained Sgt. 1st Class Jason Zielske, chair of the Bethesda Multicultural Committee. "Bethesda Multicultural Committee's goal is to support and promote a culture that embraces diversity. I thank everyone on the committee and the Filipino-American Association of Bethesda for putting on a great event and providing a wonderful opportunity for our staff and patients to learn about Asian cultures."
In proclaiming Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on May 1, President Barack Obama stated, "Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped make America what it is today. Their histories recall bitter hardships and proud accomplishments - from the laborers who connected our coasts one-and-a-half centuries ago, to the patriots who fought overseas while their families were interned at home, from those who endured the harsh conditions of Angel Island, to the innovators and entrepreneurs who are driving our nation's economic growth in Silicon Valley and beyond. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month offers us an opportunity to celebrate the vast contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our nation, reflect on the challenges still faced by Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and recommit to making the American dream a reality for all."
According to Library of Congress officials, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month originated in 1978 when Congress passed a joint resolution to commemorate Asian American Heritage Week during the first week in May. This period was chosen because it includes the date for the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America (May 7, 1843) and the completion of the transcontinental railroad (by many Chinese laborers) on May 10, 1869.
In March 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation for Asian American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress voted to expand the week-long observance to a month, and President George H.W. Bush designated May 1990 as the first "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month." In 1992, Congress voted to permanently designate May of each year as "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month."
"Now numbering more than 17 million people, the Asian American Pacific Islander community has become the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, and we have many accomplishments to celebrate and a truly diverse history to honor," states U.S. Representative for California Mike Honda on his official website. Honda is of Japanese-American heritage.
According to the Department of Defense, there are approximately 1,400,000 service members serving in active duty in the U.S. armed services. 59,141 or 4.3 percent are Asian Americans and 3, 237 (0.2 percent) are native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
Numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 indicates there are 265,200 single-race Asian military veterans, and 27,800 single-race Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander military veterans.
For more information about activities and events sponsored by the Bethesda Multicultural Committee, call Sgt. 1st Class Jason Zielske at (301) 400-2847.