Thank you for that kind introduction. It is a great pleasure to join you for this historic occasion, the opening of a museum honoring the contributions that Americans of Chinese ancestry have made to our country!
This museum has a very special meaning for me as I’m sure it does for all of you. Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to help acquaint mainstream America with the contributions Chinese Americans—and all Asian Pacific Americans– have made to our country. That mission is more important than ever during these challenging times for our community, and for our country! Thanks to all of you, now there is a museum where people from all walks of life and all communities can come and learn about the rich history of Americans of Chinese ancestry.
There is so much to share! How many in mainstream America know that Americans of Asian ancestry have been fighting for our country since the War of 1812? Or that 34 Asian Pacific Americans have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor? How many know that the principle of citizenship by birth on American soil was first established by an 1898 Supreme Court decision involving a Chinese- American, Wong Ki Ark? And how many mainstream Americans know that 12,000 Chinese workers braved incredible hardships and danger to help complete one of the most important infrastructure projects ever built — the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. These brave workers helped unite America and unleash an era of immense economic growth. I was pleased to finally and fully acknowledge their contributions at the Golden Spike Ceremony in Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 2019.
Today, Asian Pacific Americans have won Nobel prizes in the sciences and the arts, flown into outer space, and designed some of our country’s most acclaimed public buildings. Asian Pacific Americans have formed cutting-edge technology companies. And Asian Americans have been appointed to the cabinets of multiple American Presidents, including my service as U.S. Secretary of Labor and U.S. Secretary of Transportation. This museum will play a key role in making all of these milestones known to mainstream America and helping our community take pride in its history.
As I look back on the history of my own family in our country, I can say that as a young girl I never dreamed I would be standing where I am today. Many of you have similar stories in your own families—of the careers made possible by the sacrifices and hard work of your parents, and the opportunities offered by this country. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
But, despite our contributions and all the progress we have made together, the ugly fact remains that Asian Americans are still victims of cowardly personal and lethal attacks simply because of the way we look. That must end today!
Chinese Americans of previous eras could not have imagined this joyful occasion — the opening of a Chinese-American history museum just a few blocks from the White House! That’s why I’m so pleased to join you in this historic effort to honor the contributions of our community, to build bridges of understanding, and to celebrate our country’s diversity, which is one of our greatest strengths.
Thank you again to all who helped make this historic institution possible and to all of those who will be nurturing this important cultural asset for years to come.