President Obama today called for a better understanding of the challenges facing Asian Americans, cautioning against the myth of the "model minority."
"Your heritage spans the world. But what unites everyone is that in all of your families you have stories of perseverance that are uniquely American," the president said at a Washington gala hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for American Studies. "Whether you are first generation or the fifth, you're helping to build a better America,"
The president said it can be tempting to overlook the challenges still facing the Asian American community but warned there are a real problems "we can't ignore," including educational, economic, and health disparities.
"If we're going to do a better job addressing them, then we first have to stop grouping everybody just in one big category," Obama said. "Dozens of different communities fall under the umbrella of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and we have to respect that the experiences of immigrant groups are distinct and different. And your concerns run the gamut. That's something that Washington needs to understand better."
The president said his administration is trying to do just that, citing his effort to reestablish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to better identify specific issues within specific communities.
Obama, who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, told the group that "coming here feels a little bit like home."
"This is a community that helped to make me who I am today. It's a community that helped make America the country that it is today," he said.