HomeAsian AmericansTrump singles out two Asian American heroes in signing 'Heritage' proclamation

Trump singles out two Asian American heroes in signing ‘Heritage’ proclamation

Susan Ahn Cuddy and Kalpana Chawla were included in the proclamation.

By Ed Diokno
Views from the Edge

Donald Trump signed a proclamation this morning making May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

This year’s proclamation draws attention to two Asian American heroes who played important roles in American history: Indian American Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent to fly into space and Susan Ahn Cuddy, the daughter of the first Korean couple to immigrate to the U.S and went on to play an important role in World War II.

The proclamation reads:

Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed immeasurably to our Nation’s development and diversity as a people.  During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we recognize their tremendous contributions, which have helped strengthen our communities, industries, Armed Forces, national security, and institutions of governance.  Through their industriousness and love of country, our Nation has enjoyed the privileges and enrichments of multiple innovations and societal advancements.

Indian American Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian descent to fly in space, and became an American hero for her devotion to the Space Shuttle program and its various missions transporting cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station.  For her achievements, the Congress posthumously awarded her the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) posthumously awarded her the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Ms. Chawla’s courage and passion continue to serve as an inspiration for millions of American girls who dream of one day becoming astronauts. 

Susan Ahn Cuddy, who was the daughter of the first Korean couple to immigrate to the United States, also uplifted the Nation through strong work ethic, an unwavering love of country, and a steadfast devotion to her life mission, even in the face of great adversity.  She was the first Asian American woman to join the U.S. Navy.  During World War II, she excelled as a code breaker and became the first female aerial gunnery officer in the Naval Forces.  Lieutenant Cuddy would go on to further serve her country as an intelligence analyst at the National Security Agency. 

America is a country that values hard work, an honest living, and a commitment to the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  For these reasons, America cherishes its connections with the Indo-Pacific region, which shares an appreciation for these principles.  Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage help to reinforce these relationships, which are stronger today than ever before.  As President, I have visited and renewed ties with countries from which many proud Americans hail, including Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.  During my visits to these countries, I shared my vision for continued prosperity, peace, and security through a free and open Indo-Pacific region.  It is clear that a renewed sense of our common purpose and goals has consolidated and strengthened our economic, cultural, and security relationships. 

This month, and every month, we honor the more than 20 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who call America home, including those living in Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and we salute those who have served and are currently serving our Nation in the Armed Forces.  Together, we will continue to make our country more prosperous and secure for all Americans. 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2018 as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  The Congress, by Public Law 102-450, as amended, has also designated the month of May each year as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.” I encourage all Americans to learn more about those of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander heritage, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

(signed) DONALD J. TRUMP

In his 15-months as the U.S. leader, Trump has driven the AAPI voters increasingly to the left, opposing his policies on immigration, race relations and education. 

Trump’s immigration policies have soured any relationships with the broader Asian Pacific American communities, the majority of which are first-generation immigrants and thus are still in the process of reuniting with family members and establishing their own social and economic standings in the U.S.

Trump has pushed Congress to adopt his immigration reform proposals to cut legal immigration in half and rewrite policies to reflect less emphasis on family reunification. Current policies of prioritizing family members in the issuance of visas is the main reason immigration from Asia has outpaced immigration from Latin America in recent years and has led to the growth of AAPI communities throughout the U.S.

While not naming Asian countries, his Muslim travel ban worries Muslim Americans — many who come from Asia — who are afraid that the fear, hate and misinformation generated by Trump exclamations and policies will affect their communities.

Despite his claim of being “the least racist” person in the world, Trump reluctance to strongly criticize White supremacists,  out of fears of angering his base, has raised serious doubts on that dubious claim. Those on the extreme right fringe interpret Trump’s hesitancy to denounce their racist views in no uncertain terms as tantamount to support for that outlook; and has emboldened them to come out of the shadows and spread their hateful messages

Trump’s administration has also begun looking at affirmative action and questioning its worth as a pathway for disadvantaged or underrepresented communities to participate in the pursuit of the American dream. 

Trump has had sometimes rocky relationships with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, especially with China in the area of trade. 

One of the first things Trump did when he took office was to back out of  the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that would have cemented America’s role in the region as the lead trade partner and assured economic and political stability with the Asian-Pacific countries. 

With the U.S. withdrawal creating a void, the countries in the area have begun to look towards China as the big dog in the area and China has only been too eager to flex its military and economic muscle with a dwindling American presence.

While the move may have pleased his base, there are signs that Trump may have regretted that symbolic, but unwise move. Last month, the Trump administration expressed a renewed interest in the TPP, but it may be too late as the countries in the region rethink their alliances and agreements with an unpredictable U.S. which has shown to renege on treaties and agreements.

So, yes. It is time to celebrate the role of AAPI people in America, but the observances being held this month cannot help but question how those communities will continue to fare under the current administration.

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