Mahalo, thank you, Mazie for that kind introduction.
E komo mai, welcome, to all of you joining us for today's ceremony.
This year's celebration is particularly special, because it marks the 20th anniversary of the permanent official designation of the full month of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Mahalo nui loa, thank you very much, to Chairwoman Judy Chu and the members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for hosting this wonderful event. I appreciate your leadership and devotion to our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
This year we have a record 41 Members of Congress in the Caucus, and we are only getting stronger.
I recognize some familiar faces and long-time friends who are with us today.
My warmest Aloha to the friends and colleagues I see here today who co-founded CAPAC with me: Former-Secretary and Congressman Norm Mineta; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; CAPAC Chairman Emeritus Mike Honda; and former-CAPAC Chairman Robert Underwood.
I'm happy to see so many members of the Hawaii State Legislature here today to show their support. Mahalo and welcome back to Washington D.C.
Finally, I am so pleased to see all of you - the community - here this morning to help celebrate. Asian Pacific American Heritage month recognizes the rich cultural roots and traditions of Asian Pacific Americans across the country, as well as our communities' many contributions to the United States throughout its history.
This month I am introducing a Senate resolution recognizing the importance of May 2012 as Asian Pacific American Heritage month, joining the efforts of Congresswoman Chu and 38 other members of the House who introduced similar language.
However, I must say that today's event is bittersweet for me, because it marks the final time I will be celebrating this month with all of you as a United States Senator.
I have been involved with the national movement to recognize the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders since Asian Pacific American Week was established in May 1979 by a joint Congressional Resolution passed the year before.
Back then, the recognition consisted of a rather modest week of events, compared to the major occasion it has become today.
This event was created because some of us in Congress wanted to find a way to bring national attention to Asian and Pacific American cultures across this country.
We also wanted to bring together local leaders to increase advocacy for our proud communities. We were able to establish that first recognition thanks to the pioneering efforts of Representatives Frank Horton and Norm Mineta, and Senators Dan Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, and the passionate advocacy of groups like the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Organization of Chinese American Women.
Since then, our communities have made incredible strides. We are now a vital part of America's national identity, and our voices are heard on national issues.
I am so proud to see how far we have come. Asian Pacific Americans now hold many top leadership positions across the country, including three positions in President Obama's Cabinet: the Secretaries of Energy, Commerce, and Veterans' Affairs, more representation than ever before.
There are now twelve Asian Pacific Americans serving in Congress, in both parties and both chambers.
Just last night, Judge Nguyen became the first Asian Pacific American woman in history to serve on a U.S. Court of Appeals.
And there are many, many more Asian Pacific Americans holding prominent positions across our government and armed forces, and in business.
This month not only offers an opportunity to reflect on the history of Asian Pacific Americans, it provides a chance for our community to look ahead - to see how we can continue to make contributions and what more we must accomplish to achieve true parity in representation and influence.
Each year, many Asian Pacific organizations hold events to share our cultures with all Americans. This year is no different.
There are hundreds of events planned throughout the country and here in Washington that showcase the wide variety of cultures within the Asian Pacific American community.
I urge you all to participate! And if there are no events planned where you live, I encourage you to help organize one for next year. That's how this whole thing got started - by people like you deciding to come together and make a difference.
The United States is a great country, strengthened by our diverse contributions. Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month helps to remind us of that.
Again, I am so happy to see what this event has become in the 35 years since the House resolution to recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage was introduced, and the two decades since the full month of May was dedicated.
Thank you for supporting this important occasion and for your unwavering service to our communities and our great nation.
Mahalo, thank you.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America.