Secretary Elaine Chao


Remarks to the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Reception, Hosted by Florida Governor Rick Scott

Governor and First Lady -

Thank you for honoring the APA community by hosting this reception to celebrate APA Heritage month.

There is no other major nation on Earth where diversity is so celebrated and commemorated as in the United States.  And where simultaneously there is such a collective and cohesive sense of pride, accomplishment and appreciation in being, and becoming, American.  Perhaps in no other state is this phenomenon more evident than in Florida.

Governor Scott’s leadership in highlighting this event to honor and acknowledge Asian and Pacific Islander heritage is an important contribution to this wonderful and important tradition of reflecting on where we come from and our cultural and ethnic background.  It is also an occasion not just for those of our particular heritage to celebrate, but for those not of our background to gain a greater understanding of cultures, perspectives and experiences that are continually shaping—and being shaped by—the United States of America.

And there is much to know about the APA community—starting with just how diverse it is.  Asian Pacific is a rubric that encompasses tremendous diversity—including persons of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, Samoan, Polynesian, Tongan, Thai, Cambodian and several more proud and distinct nationalities and cultures.

And while the APA community has experienced significant growth in recent years with a lot of new arrivals, there are many Asian Pacific Americans whose roots in this country go back several generations. 

The truth is, no matter the boxes we check that define our heritage on Census forms, the vast majority of Americans—APA and non-APA—have at least one major truth in common: we are all Americans. 

APA is the fastest growing minority group. We possess remarkable educational attainment.  The APA community now numbers nearly 19 million.  And is expected to exceed 40 million by 2050.  Over half of Asian-Americans over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree.  20% also have a graduate or professional degree—twice the population as a whole.  85% of Asian Pacific Americans have at least a high school degree, which is on par with the total population.

Asian Pacific Americans also exemplify the American yearning for free enterprise.  The APA’s entrepreneurial success is legion with APA-owned businesses having increased over 40% in the past decade.

The APA community has served this country in so many ways in its history.

Though the APA community is just 6% of the U.S. population, nearly 300,000 living today are military veterans.  Over 100,000 Asian Pacific Americans are currently on active duty, in the National Guard and Reserve.  Many are stationed in Florida.  We are extremely proud of the servicemen and women and veterans in the APA community and we salute them.

My story is no different [ELC story - coming to America].  It’s great to see so many young people and children here tonight. You came to America to give them greater and better opportunities. That’s what Governor Scott is working for.  It’s no accident that the Wall Street Journal name Florida is the top Number 3 in the top 5.  The best States to work and do businesses.  This means more jobs and opportunities for Floridians.  Many APA are small businesses owners. Governors got advocates for smaller government, less taxes, and less government regulation.  This helps APA families and communities.  On education, Governor Scott wants the best teachers for children just as you do, not those who have been there the longest.  We‘re now participating in a worldwide economy. We have to be competitive in a worldwide economy.

And on that note, Governor, I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to be here today.  This has been a great pleasure and honor.  Thank you.