Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are often treated as a monolithic group, but the cultures and peoples that make up the AAPI community are many and varied. Historically speaking, the term “Asian American” was coined in the 1960s as a way to bring together Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese Americans for political coalition building; it has since become an umbrella term used to refer to anyone of Asian descent living in the United States, including Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, and Indian Americans, for instance. As such, it encompasses a wide range of experiences and histories, and anyone who identifies as Asian American likely understands their identity through a unique lens.
On the flip side, when an individual who identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander makes it big in entertainment, politics, or otherwise, there is a large, expansive community to cheer them on. Ever since the first Asian immigrants arrived in the United States more than 150 years ago, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been instrumental in helping to shape American history and culture; it is only in more recent decades, however, that they’ve been granted the visibility and acknowledgement they deserve. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 quotes from several influential AAPI figures, in food, health, politics, fashion, entertainment, and beyond.
When you learn something from people, or from a culture, you accept it as a gift, and it is your lifelong commitment to preserve it and build on it.
— Yo-Yo Ma, world-renowned cellist
Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.
— Yuri Kochiyama, civil rights activist
I was raised by a mother who said to me all the time, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things — make sure you're not the last.”
— Kamala Harris, first Asian American Vice President of the United States
Success isn’t about the end result; it’s about what you learn along the way.
— Vera Wang, fashion designer
To live an ethical life is to be held accountable for history.
— Cathy Park Hong, poet and author of "Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning"
I’m a simple man. I think that success is having fun. And when I'm having fun doing music, I'm happy. If I can make a little money on the side doing it, I'm really happy.
— Bruno Mars, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, producer, and dancer
Do something because you really want to do it. If you’re doing it just for the goal and don’t enjoy the path, then I think you’re cheating yourself.
— Kalpana Chawla, NASA astronaut and first Indian-born woman to go to space
If people think you are this amazing, own it.
— David Chang, American restaurateur and founder of Momofuku restaurant group
I always try to start out with some type of goal. Then I work backward and think of what I need to do to get there, and give myself smaller goals that are more immediate.
— Kristi Yamaguchi, figure skater and first Asian American woman to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
Actually being able to exercise your own choice can bring about greater opportunity. I think it’s just as important what you say no to as what you say yes to.
— Sandra Oh, actress
Photo credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./ Alamy Stock Photo