• Post honors Asian, Pacific heritage

  • “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk or Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.” — President Ronald Reagan.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk or Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.” — President Ronald Reagan.
    Reagan delivered this quote during his final speech as president of the United States Jan. 19, 1989. The quote, which came from a letter he received not long before, was the basis of Greater Kansas City Area Asian-American Chamber of Commerce cofounder Joseph Melookaran’s speech at the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month luncheon May 9 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    Melookaran said he grew up in southern India before immigrating to the United States in December 1983. Since he arrived, he became involved in several community projects and high-level jobs before co-founding the Chamber of Commerce in 1998. Through it all, Melookaran said he had many people who helped and accommodated him to continue to grow in his career.
    “What other country can give you that kind of experience and also that kind of accommodation, and that’s what I like about this country,” he said.
    Others of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander ethnic group are taking advantage of freedom and opportunities in America, Melookaran said, as he presented some statistics.
    Asian-American and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, growing 50 percent from 2002 to 2012 to 17.3 million people. Just in Kansas City, Kan., alone, there has been a 53 percent growth in the last 10 years. By 2060, it is projected that they will be 9.4 percent of the total U.S. population, Melookaran said.
    Large percentages of some professions are Asian-American, too, he said, including 38 percent of doctors, 36 percent of National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists, and 40 percent of Microsoft and IBM employees. There are also 3.6 million Asian-owned businesses in the United States, he said.
    “It is not the material abundance that invites immigrants to this country. More than that, it is the opportunity to be the architect of one’s own life,” Melookaran said. “Even today, in many parts of the world, your identity and what you can do is handed down to you. You don’t have a whole lot of choice.
    “Only in America are we able to write the script for life. We can be the architects of our destiny,” he said. “I’m not saying that this is a perfect world. There are obstacles, there are bad years, but there is only thing that is really powerful — that is the freedom.”
    Melookaran said it is all about subscribing to the same ideals.
    Page 2 of 2 - “America is not united by birth, blood or soil. We are bound by the ideals. Ideals that move us beyond our background. Ideals that lift us out of our own self-interest,” he said. “When immigrants from wherever they are subscribe to these ideals, we make a better world. When we don’t subscribe to it … we see so much divisiveness and animosity.
    “I hope and pray that every immigrant and every American can embrace these ideals,” Melookaran said. “We can certainly make our country more, not less, American.”
    Following Melookaran’s remarks, Col. Thomas Bolen, CAC chief of staff, presented him with a certificate, noting two things to take away from his speech — the importance of creating opportunities for oneself and being willing to give back.
    “Joe is not just a great Asian-American,” Bolen said. “He is a great role model for all Americans.”
    The next CAC and Fort Leavenworth observance luncheon will honor Women’s Equality Day at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 15 at the FCC.
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