Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Together, Apart

This month is usually a time to share meals with family and friends to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of our community — folks like Nobel Prize Laureate Abhijit Banerjee; Olympic Gold Medalist Chloe Kim; CEO of Alphabet and its subsidiary Google, Sundar Pachai; and the scores of Asian American successful entrepreneurs such as Boxed.com founders Chieh Huang, Jared Yaman, Christopher Cheung and William Fong who created the Costco equivalent of wholesale shopping app for millennials; and Gene Lay, founder of BioLegend, a global developer and manufacturer of antibodies and reagents for biomedical research.

They show Asian Americans continue to make an indelible mark in nearly every corner of American life.

Normally, I am out and around the country at Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. But these are not normal times. In week 8 of a stay-at-home order, I am missing the camaraderie of in-person interactions with my team. We work miles apart to rearrange our 6th annual Pitch Innovation competitions, convene industry roundtables, and bring experts to our virtual LiveTALK.

We are planning our 35th Anniversary CelebrASIAN Conference for this Fall. There, we will reconnect in person with members, supporters and friends in business, government and associations with whom we have cultivated great relationships over all these years. I cannot wait to exchange the wins we gained, the loss we wish we won, and draw lessons in business and life from one another. This conference is the talk of the town wherever we hold it; it is where the best and brightest of Pan Asian American businesses meet; it is the highlight of my professional life.

Though we are saddened to see how hard businesses have been hit by the pandemic and shutdown, I am immensely discouraged by news and reports about the rise of xenophobia and anti-Asian American conduct, scapegoating them for the Coronavirus, simply because they are Asian. This is unacceptable, and we have work to do to educate and lead the way to better mutual understanding among diverse ethnic groups.

Rather than despondence and resignation, there are many reasons for optimism and hope. This last Sunday Chinese American restaurants across 100 cities in all 50 states prepared free food for homeless shelters and soup kitchens as part of Food of Love Day. It was the 151st anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which early Chinese immigrants helped to construct. That railroad connected America’s East to the West!

One of our 2019 Pitch Innovation competition winners, Lazarus 3D, pivoted all of their resources to manufacture critical PPE. I know there are countless stories like this; my inbox is open if you have more you’d like to share.

As I wrote, I was also getting ready for a LiveTALK with Lanhee Chen, PhD, Director of Domestic Policy Studies at Stanford’s Public Policy Program. We’ll discuss what it will take to reopen the economy realistically and responsibly, and the important role businesses play in the ongoing fight against the Coronavirus.

In spite of the challenges we face, I am inspired by the Asian American community. Our tireless resilience, genuine generosity, and boundless creativity remind us that better days are ahead.

While we can’t celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month together this year, we can reflect on the contributions we all make that improve the quality of American life, that we are all Americans first, one country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In friendship,

Susan Au Allen
National President & CEO

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