By Dave Palmer
Los Angeles District
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District honored the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans with an observance here, May 10, 2012. Col. Mark Toy, District Commander, said it caused him to reflect on his own Chinese heritage.
"A little bit of history, back in the 1890s my great-grandfather Din Toy came from China and settled in Helena, Mont., opening up a general store," said Toy. "He eventually came and settled in Bakersfield, Calif., not very far from here."
A fourth-generation American, Toy mentioned he recently lost his grandmother, whose restaurant he remembers playing in as a child. His grandfather was a high school graduate and his grandmother only completed the eighth grade. Their hard work ensured a better life for their children, with all three of their sons graduating from college.
"It all starts with those that come before us, to make life better for us. That is something deeply rooted not only in the Chinese community, but in the Asian community in general," added Toy.
It's a theme that President Obama championed in his Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month proclamation.
"Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped make America what it is today. Their histories recall bitter hardships and proud accomplishments -- from the laborers who connected our coasts one-and-a-half centuries ago, to the patriots who fought overseas while their families were interned at home, from those who endured the harsh conditions of Angel Island, to the innovators and entrepreneurs who are driving our Nation's economic growth in Silicon Valley and beyond."
The keynote speaker for the day was Eugene Moy from the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. His presentation focused on a recently published book, "Portraits of Pride II," which features the personal stories of eight Chinese-American Nobel laureates.
"One of the goals that we have as a Chinese Historical Society is, really, to personalize the history and to identify those who have been un-sung heroes who have been working in the background, quietly, never really taking credit but, at the same time, they have enriched the country," said Moy.
The book, "Portraits of Pride II," features more than 30 essays about outstanding Chinese Americans from many fields of endeavor. To date the society has donated 7,000 copies of the first book in the series, "Portraits of Pride," to school and public libraries with an overall goal of 20,000 for the new effort.
The remembrance is held in May, because it coincides with two milestones in American history; May 10, 1869 marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad through contributions of Chinese workers, and May 7, 1843 when the first Japanese immigrants arrived.