Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at a White House Celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage and History

As Delivered

Hello, everyone.  Thank you so much, Richard, for that very warm introduction and I can’t believe it’s May again, everyone. And, you all look gorgeous and this room is beautiful - look at the sunshine!
It is such an incredible joy for me to be here with all of you today.  I want to thank Secretary Becerra—my compatriot co-chair, friend—also Erika, Krystal, and the entire WHIAANHPI team for making this possible yet again.
It is also wonderful to share this moment with other AA and NHPI leaders in our Administration—Acting Secretary Su, Director Prabhakar, Surgeon General Murthy, DPC Head Neera Tanden, and of course our very own, Vice President Harris.  The President has said that his Administration will look like America—not only today when you look at our administration, do you see that it looks like America, this team is fighting every day for all Americans, everywhere.  Please know, as part of our community, that we have your back.
And that’s because every single day, we are writing history together.  This American story that has carried us to this day and will continue to carry us forward to tomorrow and every tomorrow after that.
If you think about the word heritage, it’s related to the word inherit. So, it’s something that’s handed down to us that we will hand down to the next generations.  In many ways, it’s a combination of stories—written by those that came before us, to those stories that we are writing today, and those that will be written by generations to come. 
These are the narratives that shape us and connect us.  We’re also celebrating today the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative.  A quarter century is not a short time—things have changed. But one constant is that many of you have been in this fight this whole time and for much longer, in fact.
As we look to the next 25 years, I want leave you with three thoughts—remember, refocus, and reframe.
First, let’s remember our past champions like Philip Vera Cruz, the Filipino American labor organizer and farmworker.  Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, the lifelong women’s rights activist.  Wilhelmina Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett, she is importantly the founder of the National Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Hawai’i.  Representatives Dalip Singh Saund and Patsy Mink, the first Asian Americans elected to serve in our Congress.  And, of course, Secretary Norm Mineta, the first Asian American to serve in the President’s Cabinet.
Their dedication is a foundation for our devotion today.
The second idea for all of you is to refocus. Refocus on what we can do now to continue their legacies.
Our Administration is fighting against anti-AA and NHPI hate and violence.  We are empowering members of our community, our workers and small businesses to succeed, and we are improving language access.  And we are pursuing, at my agency, a worker-centered trade policy to deliver more equitable, economic outcomes for our communities. 
And lastly, reframe. To reframe our narrative, from setback to comeback.
I don’t have to tell you how much our communities have experienced in the last few years.  You all experienced hardships firsthand through the pandemic, and we are collectively still in recovery There is more we can do to advance economic justice and fight against bigotry and violence. 
But I stand here today, with all of you, incredibly optimistic.  Not because the work ahead of us is light, because it’s not. But because of all of you.  Because of what we have overcome in the past, and how we will continue to overcome.
Time and time again, we’ve witnessed what we are capable of.  In every valley, and every mountain top, we as a community came together with a collective resolve—one that lifted us up, not because of individual doing, but through unity. 
And, this is what connects all of us here—to each other, to our shared past, to our shared future, and to our collective joy.
This is our heritage, and I am proud to serve all of you and to serve with you and work with you toward these causes.  Thank you very much.