WASHINGTON, D.C. – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and a time for us to celebrate the cultures, traditions, histories and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States and to the Forest Service. This year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month is "Unite Our Mission by Engaging Each Other." Appreciating and honoring the contributions of our Asian American and Pacific Islander citizens and colleagues enhances the agency’s core value of diversity. We respect diversity in all things. This includes the people and communities we engage and the perspectives, ideas and experiences they embody and bring to the table.
Originally started as a week of celebration after becoming law in 1978, AAPI Heritage month came into being in 1990. Two years later, May was designated as the official AAPI Heritage month. The choice commemorates the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843. It also marks the anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, built with significant help from Chinese immigrants. The contributions of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are firmly woven into the diverse fabric of our nation. During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage that have enriched our country and helped define our history.
The USDA Forest Service has made important strides by engaging with AAPI employees through its Asian Pacific American Employee Association as well as with the larger AAPI community. Such public engagement can be seen in the Pacific Southwest Region, where Forest Service employees reach out to the AAPI community through events such as the Chinese New Year’s celebration in San Francisco and guided tours through some of the region’s National Forests. As we celebrate the contributions AAPIs have made in this agency, we must also acknowledge that more work is needed to recruit, retain and promote AAPIs in the Forest Service.
As a values-based, purpose-driven, relationship-focused agency, it is incumbent upon each of us to value and respect the contributions of all our employees and to appreciate the rich history and cultural backgrounds of our colleagues and constituents. Observances such as AAPI Heritage Month allow us to support our code and commitments by serving as a reminder to treat everyone with respect and by challenging us to empower one another. They also provide an opportunity to put into practice our core values of service, conservation, interdependence, diversity and safety. When we do these things out of sincerity and in the spirit of inclusion, we make our agency and our nation better.