Michigan Education Association

Celebrating Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In May 1990, President George H.W. Bush designated May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.  May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.  The majority of the workers that laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Asian Pacific Islanders is a diverse population, composed of Samoans, Native Hawaiians, Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Asian Indians, Filipinos, Koreans, Japanese and Chinese.

As educators we should encourage the celebration of the many contributors of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, not only in May but throughout the year. All students will benefit from knowing about notable Asian Americans such as:

Asian-American Firsts: Government

  • U.S. representative: Dalip Singh Saund , 1956, representative from California. The first female
  • Asian American elected to Congress was Patsy Takemoto Mink, elected in 1964 as a representative from Hawaii.
  • U.S. senator: Hiram Fong, 1959, one of Hawaii’s first two senators.
  • Federal court judge: Herbert Choy, 1971, appointed to the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit.
  • Governor: George R. Ariyoshi, 1974, governor of Hawaii. The first on the mainland was Gary Locke, elected governor of Washington in 1996.
  • Member of presidential cabinet: Norman Yoshio Mineta, 2000, appointed secretary of commerce. In 2001, he became the first cabinet member to switch directly from a Democratic to Republican cabinet- becoming secretary of transportation –and the only Democrat in George W. Bush’s cabinet. The first female Asian-American cabinet member was Elaine Chao, appointed secretary of labor in 2001.
  • Vietnamese-American member of Congress: Anh Joseph Cao won a special election

Item of Interest

As Asian culture becomes more popular in the United States, the ancient Chinese method of creating a harmonious environment, Feng Shui, has come into focus.

Feng Shui pronounced “Fung Shway,” Feng Shui literally means “wind-water.” Its roots are 5,000 years old.

Feng Shui seeks to promote prosperity, good health, and general well being by examining how energy, qi, pronounced “chee,” flows through a particular room, house, building, or garden.

 Feng Shui considers yin, feminine and passive energy, and yang, which is masculine and hot. It also looks at the fine elements- water, fire, wood, metal, and earth, and the external environment.

Feng Shui can be used to decide the location, construction, and architectural features of buildings, the placement and style of furniture, colors and decorating schemes, and the location of plantings, paths, and other outside features. By creating a more pleasing atmosphere, Feng Shui has been credited with improving family communication, restoring employee cooperation, and increasing a store’s sales.

These principles can be applied to any style of building or decorating, not just to the Chinese or Asian modes.  Engage students in a discussion of how Feng Shui could be applied to the classroom. As a special project have students develop a drawing or other replica of a room or other space demonstrating the application of Feng Shui.

For further information, contact the MEA Professional Development/Human Rights Department at 517/332-6551 or 800/292-1934.

Updated: April 30, 2010 11:49 AM