AT THE SMITHSONIAN
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes the history, concerns, contributions and achievements of Asian Pacific Americans and their role in the American story. While the Asian Pacific American experience reaches across borders and spans oceans, with roots in the Asian continent and archipelagos across the Pacific Ocean, the Asian Pacific American story reflects the American spirit. Like so many other communities in America, Asian Pacific Americans worked to expand frontiers, forging the iron rails that linked sea to shining sea. They shed blood to defend the nation and stood up to preserve its cherished values, in classrooms and courtrooms, in legislatures and in the streets.
This quintessentially American story—the story that the Smithsonian seeks to tell—has yet to be fully told.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has selected the title of a poem by Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan (1913–1956) as the theme for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013. Born after the end of the Philippine-American War (1899–1902), when the relationship between the Philippines and the United States remained uncertain, Bulosan came to America in search of opportunity. But, like most Asian Pacific Americans of his time, Bulosan's life in America was defined by hardship and discrimination. In spite of this experience, however, Bulosan continued to believe in America as a powerful symbol of freedom for the world. Bulosan's poem, I Want the Wide American Earth, captures how the Asian Pacific American experience is aspirational—in spite of the challenges that define a particular era, generations of Asian Pacific Americans have remained steadfast in their belief in America.
As Bulosan so eloquently writes:
"Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers,
I say I want the wide American earth
For all the free.
I want the wide American earth for my people.
I want my beautiful land.
I want it with my rippling strength and tenderness
Of love and light and truth
For all the free."