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I was honored to take part in a roundtable discussion with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders while visiting San Francisco this past week. As I mentioned earlier this month, AAPI Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the growing AAPI population in the United States.
As the AAPI Heritage Month theme of #APAEverywhere attests, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders live in every part of our country and work and lead in every industry, including the Federal Government. And we’re better for it.
From the day I was sworn in as Director of the Office of Personnel Management about 18 months ago, one of my top priorities has been to make sure that our Federal workforce draws from the rich diversity of every community we serve.
I want a diverse workforce at every level of government and at every decision-making table. While Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders represent 6 percent of Federal employees, they represent only 3.4 percent of the Senior Executive Service, our top leadership corps. That’s up from 2.4 percent in 2008. But we must and we can do better.
One way we are already strengthening our AAPI leadership is through the Asian American Government Employee Network’s (AAGEN) SES leadership development program. A pipeline of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders is emerging from this mentorship and networking program. Today’s roundtable and gatherings like it help us to continue to spread the word about the opportunities in Federal service.
In order to attract an increasingly diverse, innovative, and multi-skilled workforce, I need to hear from people active in every community in America. I learn so much from the roundtables and other events I participate in. In turn, I share with those I meet the ways that America’s workforce can play a role in addressing the issues they care most about. And, I might just interest a few people in Federal service who may have never considered a Federal job. As word continues to spread about our commitment to the AAPI community, I hope that more individuals will consider Federal service.
Each May since 1977 we have celebrated the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the American Story. During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month we recognize the culture, traditions, history, and generations of AAPI community who have enriched America’s history and will be instrumental in its future success.
Members of the AAPI community were Chinese immigrants. It was their difficult manual labor that the transcontinental railroad was built in the late 1860;s Their efforts helped connect this great country, from the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay to the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River.
Members of the AAPI community are federal employees and leaders of government. Christopher Lu is Deputy Secretary of Labor. Norman Mineta served as the Secretary of Transportation for President Clinton. Dr. Steven Chu served as President Obama’s Secretary of Energy.
Like America itself, the AAPI community draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures.
The theme of this month is “I Am Beyond.” The phrase captures how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America.
What a wonderful message for us all. Nearly five years ago President Obama established the White House Initiative on AAPIs. The Initiative addresses disparities in health care, education, and economic opportunity by ensuring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders receive equal access to government programs and services.
In his proclamation commemorating AAPI Heritage Month this year, the President calls on us to “…recall our hard-fought progress, let us resolve to continue moving forward. Together, let us ensure the laws respect everyone, civil rights apply to everyone, and everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a chance to get ahead.” You can read the President’s full proclamation on the White House's website.
As a former educator and community leader, I know the value of bringing together talented people with diverse ideas and perspectives to improve any organization. This is especially important for the Federal government. The complex and important work of government requires a diverse and inclusive workforce that is representative of the many important perspectives, talents, and backgrounds of our great country.
One of my major challenges and a priority for me as OPM Director is to increase the diversity of the Federal workforce. When I talk about diversity, I don’t just mean ethnic and racial diversity. I want to make sure that people of all ages, people with disabilities and people from every corner of this great country have opportunities.
With diversity comes inclusion. We need an inclusive workforce to serve the American people.
At OPM, the Asian American Pacific Islander American Employee Resource Group works to increase awareness of the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures as an integral part of our agency’s mission. It supports the diversity and inclusion goals of our agency and provides opportunities for mentorship, support and development within the OPM community.
We also continue to support the programs of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council. I was honored that FAPAC representatives attended my reception after I was sworn in as OPM Director in December 2013.
So during this month and all through the year, let us focus on bringing together talented people with diverse ideas and perspectives. Like the AAPI community which draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures, we at OPM need to draw strength from the diversity we have within our agency.
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