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Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is a month to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions generations of Asian/Pacific Americans have made to American history, society and culture.

The origin of Asian/Pacific-American Heritage Month dates back to the 95th Congress (1977-1978) when five joint resolutions were introduced proposing that a week in May be designated to commemorate the accomplishments of Asian/Pacific Americans. The House of Representatives introduced three joint resolutions (H.J.Res.540, H.J.Res.661, H.J.Res.753) to designate the first 10 days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week while Senator Daniel Inouye also introduced S.J.Res.72 in the Senate to designate the beginning of May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.  A 4th joint resolution (H.J.Res.1007) was introduced in the House by Rep. Frank J. Horton and proposed designating 7 days in May beginning on May 4th as Asian/Pacific American Week. This joint resolution was passed by Congress and became Pub.L.95-419. This law directed the President to issue a proclamation designating the week beginning on May 4, 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. 

On March 28, 1979, President Carter issued Proclamation 4650, the first presidential proclamation, for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In this proclamation, President Carter spoke of the significant role Asian/Pacific Americans have played in the creation of a dynamic and pluralistic American society with their contributions to the sciences, arts, industry, government and commerce.

Over the next ten years, Presidents Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush continued to annually issue proclamations designating a week in May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

In 1990, Congress passed Pub.L.101-283 which amended Pub.L.95-419.  Pub.L.101-283 requested the President to issue a proclamation which expanded the observance of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week to a month in May 1990.  This law called on the people of the United States to observe Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month with “appropriate ceremonies, programs and activities.”  President George H.W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 6130 on May 7, 1990 designating May 1990 as the first “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.”

The following year, Pub.L.102-42 was passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush on May 14, 1991.  This law requested that the President proclaim May 1991 and May 1992 as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Months.”  This law also recognized the significance of May 7th and May 10th in the history of Asian/Pacific Americans.  May 7, 1843 is the date on which the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States while on May 10, 1869 the first transcontinental railroad in the United States was completed with significant contributions from Chinese pioneers.  In 1992, Congress passed Pub.L.102-450 which permanently designated May of each year as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.” 

Pursuant to Pub. L. 102-450 Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump have annually issued proclamations designating May as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.”

Legislative Branch Documents

The public laws between which designate a week or month in May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week or Month are also available in the United States Statutes at Large.  The specific citations are as follows:

Executive Branch Material

Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders have been used by presidents to rule on substantive issues of law; to administrate the executive branch of government; and to make general announcements to the public.  These general announcements which exhort the public to observe a holiday such as Thanksgiving or honor a particular group of citizens as in National Black History Month are usually issued in the form of a Presidential Proclamation.  On many occasions Congress will pass a law specifically requesting the President to take certain action such as proclaiming the recognition of a particular group of citizens as Jewish or Hispanic Americans.

Listed below are links to examples of Presidential Proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week or Month along with the citations to the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register, the official publications for Presidential Proclamations.

To search for other Presidential Proclamations on the annual observances of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month can be found through American Presidency Project by selecting the year and clicking on the Apply button.

Presidential proclamations as well as Presidential statements, messages, remarks for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month can be searched from the Government Printing Office’s Advanced Search page in the collections for the Code of Federal Regulations, the Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Federal Register.

Beginning with the 2009 proclamation, presidents have expanded the commemoration to include Pacific Islanders and the proclamations have been issued in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

For more information on Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month see:

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020