Remarks on Signing the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week Proclamation

May 4, 1987

Thank you very much. I bet you didn't know the Rose Garden looked like this. [Laughter] Well, today we commemorate the enormous contributions made to the United States by citizens of Asian and Pacific heritage. Coming from California, I've long been aware of the role played by Asian and Pacific peoples in the development of our country. Many came first as laborers -- as was true of so many immigrant groups -- but then, they took advantage of America's opportunity and excelled in all walks of American life.

Today our citizens of Asian and Pacific descent are admired for their hard work, their commitment to education, and their commercial and scientific genius. In the last century, people spoke of a Protestant work ethic. Well, today no one can miss the fact that there are other cultural-based work ethics, not the least of which is an Asian-Pacific work ethic. At this time, it's my pleasure to announce my intent to nominate as our new Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner, Joy Cherian. You know him, of course, as the president of the Asian-American Voters Coalition.

Citizens of Asian and Pacific heritage have earned the respect of their fellow Americans and, in signing this proclamation, we underscore this respect and admiration. I received a letter a few weeks ago that gave me a new insight I'd like to share with you. This letter pointed out that someone can move to Greece, live there, and yet never become a Greek; move to Japan and never become a Japanese; France and never become French; and so forth through all the countries. Yet anyone from any corner of the world can move to America and become an American.

Our fellow Americans did, indeed, come here for freedom and to improve their lot. We rejoice in this and that's why we have ceremonies like this one today. Part of our heritage is this rich diversity that we find all around us. Of course, Americans of Asian and Pacific descent are a unique element in our society. But wasn't that true for every other ethnic group that emigrated to America? Henry David Thoreau, a great American writer-philosopher, once wrote: ``We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature. We go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure.'' Our citizens of Asian and Pacific descent truly bring East and West together.

I can't help but say -- I've said it many times to other groups -- call it mysticism if you will, but I have always believed there was some divine plan that put this continent here between the two great oceans to become a haven for all those who had that extra ounce of love for freedom in their hearts and courage to find their way here and build this great force for good in all the world.

And with that said, I'll sign the proclamation. Two of those who authored this proclamation 9 years ago are here with us today. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.