RAFU STAFF REPORT
WASHINGTON — On June 13 at the White House, President Joe Biden, accompanied by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, signed Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono’s (D-Hawaii) Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act into law.
“I’m honored to sign into law something that’s long overdue,” Biden said at the ceremony.
The legislation creates an eight-member commission to study how to make an Asian Pacific American museum a reality in Washington, including whether it should be part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Senate majority and minority leaders, and the House speaker and House minority leader, each would name two members of the commission, which will have 18 months to complete the study.
Biden said the bill comes at a “critical time,” citing the Atlanta spa shootings and the 80th anniversary of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
“Today, it’s clear that the battle for the soul of America continues. That’s why a museum like this is going to matter so much. Museums of this magnitude and consequence are going to inspire and educate. More than anything else, it’s going to help people see themselves in the story of America — a story that makes us a better America and it’s made us a better America,” Biden said.
Speakers at the signing ceremony included Vice President Kamala Harris, who shared the story of her mother, who came to the U.S. from India.
“When my mother was 19 years old, she came to the United States from India to become a breast cancer researcher,” Harris said. “Growing up, my mother made sure that my sister Maya and I learned of the important, glorious history of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in America. Because that, of course, is part of the history of America.
“To teach this history is to help all of us as Americans understand where we come from. And to teach this history is to help us understand who we are.
“The National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture will teach and tell the story of our country. This is a story about heroes who shaped our nation for the better, from the South Asian Americans who helped transform farming up and down the Pacific coast, to the Japanese Americans who defended our freedom during World War II, to the Chinese American garment workers who marched through the streets of New York City 40 years ago to win better pay and benefits for all workers.”
Meng thanked the president for signing her legislation, which unanimously passed both houses of Congress earlier this year.
“I am ecstatic and overjoyed at this historic moment and honored and proud to have championed this crucial effort, especially after fighting for this legislation in Congress over the past seven years,” Meng said.
“I thank and commend President Biden for signing my bill into law and understanding the importance of establishing a national AAPI museum. Since the beginning of his administration, President Biden has proven to be a true friend and ally of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.”
CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) issued the following statement: “I was so proud to join President Biden, Vice President Harris, my fellow CAPAC members, and so many community leaders and advocates at the White House yesterday to watch the president sign the Asian Pacific American Museum Study bill into law!
“For years, Congresswoman Meng has worked tirelessly to bring the vision of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture to life and today’s signing ceremony was an important first step toward recognizing the generations of history and contributions of AANHPI communities across the nation.
“I truly believe that educating our country about how AANHPI history IS American history is one of the most powerful ways to combat the anti-Asian hate and xenophobia that our communities are facing. So I thank Congresswoman Meng for her tremendous work to bring this vision to reality, Sen. Mazie Hirono for spearheading this effort in the Senate, and President Biden for his leadership in taking the next step toward the creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture!”
The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement: “This afternoon, President Biden signed into law H.R. 3525, the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act. This bill would allow the eventual creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., where it would join the many other museums dedicated to sharing the stories, histories, and cultures of other marginalized groups in our nation.
“The four main goals of the newly created commission are to map a plan of action for the implementation of the creation of the museum; develop a fundraising strategy for the building and operation of the museum; find an independent review of the fundraising strategy; and finally, present a legislative proposal to Congress for the museum’s establishment and construction.
“While we are cognizant of the fact that the development of such a museum will take time and much work, support, and input from our own community, we are confident that the commission will be able to craft a plan that will make such a museum possible and help to share the stories of the Asian American community for generations to come.
“We applaud Rep. Grace Meng for her leadership and vision to bring us to this point. and look forward to the appointment of the commission members and the initial steps they take towards making a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture a reality.”
JACL Executive Director David Inoue noted, “We have been fortunate to have the National Museum of American History showcase our Japanese American history with recent dedicated major exhibitions. However, a museum dedicated to the history and culture of all Asian Pacific American communities will ensure these stories become a part of the permanent collection of what is shared in the Smithsonian, and the rich diversity of the Asian Pacific American community will be showcased for all Americans to learn and better understand.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and House Democrats on June 7 held a bill enrollment ceremony for H.R. 3525. Pelosi gave the following remarks: “This is a pretty exciting day for us because today the Congress will send to the president’s desk this important legislation. And it is really because of the great leadership of Congresswoman Grace Meng – of her legislation making the National Asian Pacific American Museum established in our world here .,,
“I just salute Grace Meng for her persistent leadership on this. This is something that has meant a great deal to all of us, that America’s story will be fully told by the contributions of the AAPI community. It will be something that … families across America will take great pride [in]. But every family in America will be more fully aware of the beautiful cultural contributions in every way that [the] AAPI community makes to America …
“Whether we’re talking academically, entrepreneurially, culturally, artistically, in every way, the fabulous contributions of the AAPI community … Many for a very long time, some very more recent, all of them with their hopes, aspirations, dreams, optimism and courage to make the future better for their families, whether it was 200 years ago or two months ago. All of those newcomers make America more American.
“And this museum – well, it’s the AAPI Museum, it’s really an all-American museum. So I want to just salute the leadership – this is the leadership of the AAPI community. Grace Meng; Congresswoman Judy Chu, the chair of the [Asian Pacific American] Caucus in the Congress; Mark Takano, the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee; Congressman Ted Lieu, a member of the Democratic leadership in the Congress; and … a newer member of Congress, Rep. [Kaiali‘i] Kahele from Hawaii, part of the integration of the Congress of newcomers.”