Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Women’s Celebration

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered keynote remarks at the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Women’s Celebration event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  In her remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted the importance of AA and NHPI women leaders in advancing justice and equity for those communities.  Ambassador Tai also underscored the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to partnering with AA and NHPI communities to build a freer and fairer America.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Hello, everyone!  It’s so good to see all of you.  

Senator Duckworth, thank you for that kind introduction.  Your leadership is having a phenomenal impact on our communities, and I want to thank you for your dedication and commitment.  

I also want to thank Brad Jenkins and the entire team at the AAPI Victory Power Fund for putting this event together and for inviting me to speak.

Tonight is a celebration—of our collective heritage, our collective stories, and our collective future that we will write together.

I am here representing President Biden’s Cabinet as the first Asian American and first woman of color confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative.  

But I also represent all of us—the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities—in the President’s Cabinet.

This was only possible through the support and mentorship of countless women in my life.

I am sure that many of you have those women in your lives, too.  Ones that you looked up to.  Ones that believed in you and opened doors for you.  

As some of you may know, my parents were born in mainland China and grew up in Taiwan.  In the 1960s, they moved to America as graduate students, through President Kennedy’s immigration reforms.  

My mom still works at the National Institutes of Health, developing treatments for people with opioid addiction.

I have often told people—including President Biden—that I’m proud to be a second-generation American and a second-generation public servant, following in her footsteps.

I remember when Vice President Harris swore me in as the U.S. Trade Representative.

At the ceremony, she surprised me by knowing that it was also my birthday that day.  And she surprised me again when she turned to my mom and said, “Happy Birthday to you!”  

My mom was delighted and said to the Vice President, “You know, in Asian cultures, we congratulate the mother on a child’s birthday because the mother did all the work that day.”  And Vice President Harris turned to my mother and said, “I know.”  

Picture that—the Vice President of the United States gets us because she is one of us.

There are other women leaders that we should celebrate, and some of them are here tonight.

Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar, who is in the President’s Cabinet with me.  Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.  Congresswoman Judy Chu.  Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.  

My good friend Erika Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President and AA and NHPI Senior Liaison at the White House.

Mia Ives-Rublee from the Disability Justice Initiative, who is also a commissioner on the President's Advisory Commission on AA and NHPIs.  And of course, Neera Tanden, the President’s newly named Domestic Policy Advisor, whom you’ll hear from later in the program.

This is why visibility matters.  Sometimes, you have to see it to believe it.

We have been an integral part of our nation’s social fabric for generations.  

We laid the foundations of our roads and railways.  We built our schools, tilled the soil, cared for the sick, and reared our cattle.

And we continue to carry that legacy forward today.

We are teachers, firefighters, and scientists.  We are police officers, artists, entrepreneurs, and steelworkers.  We are farmers, chefs, and engineers.

And we are taking over Hollywood, too!  

“Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.”  “Never Have I Ever.”  “Minari.”  You name it, we’re out there!

We have come a long way.  But we know too well that there are real struggles that so many in our communities still face.

During the pandemic, we saw how reckless rhetoric enabled senseless violence against our communities.  Racism, nativism, and xenophobia continue to threaten our AA and NHPI families and communities.

None of this is new.  We know our nation’s history includes painful scars of hate and bigotry.  

But we will not be defined by these scars.  That’s the genius of this country—that our Union was designed to be perfected over time.

All of you hold the pen in writing that next chapter in our story.  Gatherings like this remind us that we must continue to fight to be more visible, together.  To fight for our rights and our freedoms, together.

That is because we’ve always been about community, celebrating and walking with one another.

There is hope—because of people like you, because of the next generation of organizers, advocates, and artists.  

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough, that you’re not experienced enough, that you’re too nice.

We belong.  I see you, I believe in you, and I believe in the power of “us.”

Thank you.