When President Obama re-established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) by signing Executive Order 13515 in October 2009, he also established the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, created the Initiative’s Interagency Working Group, and indicated a commitment to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Eight years later, we asked Asian-American leaders to share some of their memories of their time working under the Obama administration, as well as what the Obama administration has come to mean to them.
Bill Imada, Commissioner, President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs
Working under the vision and leadership of President Barack Obama has been nothing short of exceptional. When asked if I would consider serving on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I realized that this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. I said yes immediately. Who would say no to serving a leader who invites diverse views and opinions, and who embraces constructive criticism? As an entrepreneur, small-business owner, and community leader, it was important for me to bring a private-sector voice to the Commission.
What I discovered from my interactions with other commissioners, members of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) staff, and federal agency leaders from throughout the country, was a level of esprit de corps I had never witnessed in government before. People of all backgrounds, races, ethnic groups, political views, and more were singularly focused on ensuring that we advanced the needs, interests and aspirations of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our country.
While we didn’t always agree on every single detail or approach to the myriad of challenges and opportunities facing our diverse communities, the Commission and its partnership with federal and regional leaders is unmatched under any past administration. AAPI communities from every corner of our country, including the territories and freely associated states, all came together to share their stories (and now, our stories), find alignment on critical issues such as health care, immigration, bullying, the need for real disaggregated data about our communities, entrepreneurship, sustainable leadership and most importantly, access to federal programs and services that seemed almost impossible to achieve just a few years ago.
I am very proud of my service on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and strongly encourage President-elect Donald Trump to continue having an advisory organization under his administration. AAPIs are the fastest-growing segment of our country’s population, and our voices must continue to fill the halls of government, corporations, foundations, academic institutions and nonprofit groups.