Washington, DC: Identifying first Indian American Congressman Dalip Singh Saund as among early trailblazers for the Asian American community, President Barack Obama said the community must be treated beyond as the model minority.
Reaching out to the untapped Asian American community ahead of the November presidential elections, Obama said treatment of Asian Americans must go beyond treating them as the “model minority” to better understand the challenges faced by many groups, especially recent immigrants.
Majority of the Asian Americans, among the early immigrants, Obama said, didn’t have money.
“A lot of them didn’t have belongings. But what they did have was an unshakeable belief that this country - of all countries - is a place where anybody can make it if they try,” he said.
“Now, many of them faced hardship; many of them faced ridicule; many of them faced racism. Many were treated as second-class citizens — as people, who didn’t belong. But they didn’t give up. They didn’t make excuses. They kept forging ahead. They kept building up America,” he said.
“But they were trailblazers like Dalip Singh Saund — a young man from India who, in 1920, came to study agriculture, stayed to become a farmer and took on the cause of citizenship for all people of South Asian descent,” Obama said, while addressing the annual gala of Asian Pacific American Institute for American Studies.
“And once Dalip earned his own citizenship, he stepped up to serve the country he loved — and became the first Asian American elected to the Congress,” Obama said amidst a round of applause.
“They were pioneers like my former Congresswoman, Patsy Mink, who was not only the first Asian American woman elected to Congress but the author of Title IX - which has changed the playing field for all of our girls,” Obama said.
“It’s a community that helped make America the country that it is today. So your heritage spans the world. But what unites everyone is that in all of your families you have stories of perseverance that are uniquely American,” Obama said in his address.
Obama said the all those previous generations would be proud to see this room, to see how far this community has come.
“Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders are now the inventors and entrepreneurs keeping our country on the cutting edge; the businessmen and women at the helm of some of our most successful industries; leaders in every aspect of American life — in science and medicine, in education, in sports, in the arts, in our Armed Forces; in our government and in our courts. In fact, over the past three years, we have more than doubled the number of Asian Americans on the federal bench,” the President said.
“I know it can be tempting —given the success that’s on display here tonight — for people to buy into the myth of the ‘model minority’ and glance over the challenges that this community still faces,” Obama said.
“But we have to remember there are still educational disparities like higher dropout rates in certain groups, lower college enrollment rates in others. There are still economic disparities like higher rates of poverty and obstacles to employment. There are health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and cancer and Hepatitis B,” he noted.