For Immediate Release: May 25, 2011
By Paula A. Paige, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—The Office of Naval Research (ONR) joined forces with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 23 in a ceremony at both agencies’ headquarters.
Sponsored by ONR’s Office of Equal Employment and AFOSR’s Cultural Awareness Committee, the event featured Air Force Col. Deanna Won, senior military assistant to the director of the Defense Technology Security Administration; and Thomas Li, co-founder of Biotech Research Laboratory and former U.S. Army service member. Li is also the grandson of Li Yuanhong, a former president of the Republic of China.
Both Chinese-Americans, but born ages apart, Won and Li took the audience on a historical journey as they wove their families’ narratives throughout Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, the end of World War II, their migration to the United States and eventual assimilation into American culture.
“We are a land of immigrants. We bring a diversity of thought and talent to America,” said Won. Her presentation, “Why Did We Come? Why Did We Stay? Where Are We Headed?” chronicled China’s history, its geography and the nation’s three migration streams to the United States.
Paul Gido, assistant vice chief of naval research at ONR, praised both speakers for their service to the United States.
“When I look at the history of these two families born of immigrants, theirs is the basic tale of the ‘land of the free,’” Gido said. “We can benefit greatly from those who came to stay as well as those who return to [their native homelands].”
AFOSR Deputy Director Col. Paul Fisher said all American immigrants can find historical parallels in Won’s and Li’s stories.
“As we learn more about other cultures, we appreciate what they bring, their uniqueness and see how similar we all are,” Fisher said. “My grandparents came from Sweden and Scotland. Hearing other people’s stories makes our differences shrink to trivialities.”
Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was established in 1977 to celebrate the achievements of Asians and Pacific Islanders to the United States. According to the Navy, there are currently 55,000 Asian-Pacific Americans serving in the U.S. Navy, a contribution that dates back to the 1800s.
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