I want to thank you for this opportunity to address you today as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and honor the many contributions to our country by our fellow citizens who can trace their origins to these areas of the world.
As a young child, I lived in Tokyo, Japan; during parts of my career in the Navy I had the privilege to live in Hawaii; and most importantly, wherever I’ve been, I can recognize the tremendous value that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities bring to this nation.
From science and medicine to law and business, politics and government to teaching and training, art and literature to technology and math, building our infrastructure to serving in our armed forces, in countless ways, our Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors have enriched us all.
The AAPI community brings to this nation a love of education and learning, a dedication to family and community, a commitment to hard work and entrepreneurship, a bold spirit of exploration and discovery, and a drive to excel in every field of endeavor.
Asian American Pacific Islander communities have been a driving force in our ascent to world leadership in every area of life.
Since science is a part of my portfolio at the Department of Energy, I’d like to tell you about Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu.
By the middle of the last century, she had become the first woman faculty member of the physics department at Princeton University.
Princeton University stewards our Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, which is one of our 17 National Labs.
For those who remember her outstanding work, Dr. Wu had many nicknames.
She was known as the First Lady of Physics, the Chinese-American Madame Curie, and my favorite name for this remarkable and brilliant woman – the Queen of Nuclear Research.
That’s partly because she worked on the Manhattan Project, the famed predecessor of our Department.
While working on the Manhattan Project, she helped develop a process for separating uranium into uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion.
In the decades that followed, her work crossed over to biology and medicine, including research on the molecular changes in red blood cells that cause sickle-cell disease.
In 1990, seven years before her death, she even had an asteroid named after her.
And so, to the over 20 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders today, to our esteemed colleagues, and fellow citizens who claim that heritage, thank you for all that you have done, and for all that you will do, to benefit our nation and to further our progress.
Together our country has been freer and stronger, healthier and more prosperous, and more forward-looking and dynamic, than we ever could have ever been otherwise.