White House cel­e­brates Lu­nar New Year

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By HUA SHENGDUN in Wash­ing­ton

It’s a stark con­trast to see the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the Lu­nar New Year com­pared with four decades ago when it was cel­e­brated by very few Asian Amer­i­cans, said to Tina Tchen, as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama.

She made the point in her open­ing re­marks at a Lu­nar New Year cel­e­bra­tion at the White House on Tues­day. Many for­mer White House staff mem­bers were among the au­di­ence.

“Quite frankly, we did not have a big com­mu­nity to cel­e­brate the Lu­nar New Year, back in the 1960s,” Tchen said. “I grew up in Cleve­land. My fam­ily was prob­a­bly one of five Chi­nese Amer­i­can-fam­i­lies in Ohio.”

Nowa­days, the Lu­nar New Year is cel­e­brated ev­ery­where, from the Kennedy Cen­ter to Lin­coln Cen­ter and many places across the coun­try; it has be­come a fo­cal point for the same time ev­ery year, Tchen said.

As the fi­nal cel­e­bra­tion of the Lu­nar New Year un­der the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Asian-Amer­i­can White House staff looked back on how far AsianAmer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties have come in terms of political par­tic­i­pa­tion and pro­mot­ing Asian cul­ture.

“Within the Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der com­mu­ni­ties, we have more than 200 fed­eral of­fi­cials across the coun­try from re­gional of­fices to con­nect us with fed­eral re­sources,” said Alissa Ko, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor at the White House.

Over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s seven and a half years, the Asian-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity has gone from one of those blips on the elec­toral col­lege radar screen on pres­i­den­tial elec­tion night to the time in 2012 when the AsianAmer­i­can vote be­came a de­ci­sive fac­tor in the na­tional elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to Tchen.

“I’m orig­i­nally from In­di­ana,” said Chris Kang, na­tional di­rec­tor of Na­tional Coun­cil of Asian Amer­i­cans. “Like Tina, I have not grown up in a great tra­di­tion of cel­e­brat­ing Lu­nar New Year. Over time, think­ing about how far our coun­try has come, I re­ally started to em­brace my Asian-Amer­i­can iden­tity.

“My ex­pe­ri­ence led to me work­ing to pro­vide a na­tional voice for Asian-Amer­i­can and Pa­cific Is­lan­der is­sues,” Kang said.

Asked his fa­vorite Lu­nar New Year mem­ory, Kang said it hap­pened this year. “We de­cided to let our 4-year-old daugh­ter give all her kinder­garten class­mates red en­velopes with coins and chop­sticks in them to cel­e­brate the hol­i­day,” Kang said.

Pres­i­dent Obama sent a Lu­nar New Year mes­sage on Feb 8, the first day of the Year of the Mon­key.

“Michelle and I send our warm­est wishes to ev­ery­one cel­e­brat­ing the Lu­nar New Year across Amer­ica and around the world. This is a time filled with fam­ily, get-to­geth­ers and an­tic­i­pa­tion of the New Year.”

Pan Jialiang con­trib­uted to this story.

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