AAPI Weekly Highlights: Nominate a Hero for the 2013 Citizens Medal

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 AAPI Highlights, March 18, 2013

Welcome to this edition of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Highlights. Read about the President’s 2013 Economic Report, the First Lady’s challenge to America’s CEOs to hire veterans, the Economic Case for Commonsense Immigration Reform, the AAPI Women Champions of Change, the WHIAAPI summer internship program, and more agency announcements.

Announcing AAPI Women Champions of Change


Across the country, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future.  In business, the arts, civil rights, health, and so many other fields, AAPI women are helping to improve the lives of their fellow Americans.


This May, on the occasion of AAPI Heritage Month, the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Council on Women and Girls, and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will honor a small group of AAPI women as Champions of Change. And we want your help! Members of the public are invited to submit nominations online until Friday, March 29, 2013. A small group of AAPI women who represent diverse experiences and backgrounds will be honored as Champions of Change and invited to the White House for an event in early May. Learn more here.


Nominate a Hero for the 2013 Citizens Medal


For more 40 years, the Presidential Citizens Medal has recognized Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." The Medal is among the highest awards a civilian can receive. Help us recognize the exemplary citizen from your community -- and bring them the public attention they deserve by taking a moment to nominating them for this year’s medal by Sunday, March 31, 2013. Learn more here 

A Preview of the 2013 Economic Report of the President


This year's Economic Report of the President describes the progress we have made recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. As a nation, we now buy more American cars than we have in 5 years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20 years. Our housing market is healing, and homeowners and consumers enjoy stronger protections than ever before. But there are still millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs, but too many of our fellow citizens still can't find fulltime employment. Corporate profits have reached all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes for working Americans have barely budged. As President Obama has said, "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs–that must be the North Star that guides our efforts." Read the full report here.

First Lady Michelle Obama Challenges America's CEOs to be Bold in Finding Ways to Hire Veterans


    First Lady

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the Joining Forces Initiative to business leaders at the Business Roundtable Conference Center in Washington, March 13, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

On March 13, 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama met with the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies, which combined have nearly 16 million employees, and challenged these leaders to make bold commitments to hire our veterans and military spouses and help them reach their full potential within their companies. Mrs. Obama highlighted the need for action, referring to the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses currently looking for work, and pointing out that in the coming years, over one million more will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning back to civilian life. Read more here.


The Economic Case for Commonsense Immigration Reform


America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country. We must come together on a plan that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers who came here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules. Together we can build a fair, effective and common-sense immigration system that strengthens our economy and the middle class. As the President has made clear, any effort must include continuing to strengthen border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable, and streamlining legal immigration. Read the White House blog post here.


WHIAAPI Announcements


Internship Opportunities   


The White House Internship application for the Fall 2013 program is open.  The deadline to apply is April 7, 2013.  White House Interns dedicate their time, talents, energy, and service to better the White House, the community, and the nation. They become a part of the White House team, and the assignments given to an intern on any given day could include conducting research, managing incoming inquiries, attending meetings, writing memos, and staffing events. They also participate in a weekly speaker series with senior staff members and small group meetings exploring different policy aspects of the Executive Office of the President through speakers, discussion, off-site field trips, and service projects.


Recommendation Process for the President's Advisory Commission on AAPIs 


The President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs is comprised of 20 individuals, selected by the President, who represent the diversity and expertise of the AAPI community.  Over the last three years, the Commission has acted as the ‘eyes and ears’ of this Administration representing and advocating for the AAPI community.  To the extent Commission vacancies may arise, we encourage the community to recommend those leaders who you believe represent the best and brightest the AAPI community has to offer.


Please send an email to WHIAAPICommission@ed.gov providing the following information

  • Full name
  • Title/Position
  • Substantive area (health, education, business etc…)
  • City/State or region
  • Bio/Resume
  • A brief write-up on why this person would be a good candidate


Agency Spotlight: Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency


The success of the 1.5 million AAPI-owned businesses in the U.S., which employs more than 2.8 million workers, is critical to our economy.  The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helped Asian American-owned businesses gain access to $139 million in contacts and capital, representing a 92% increase over previous funding levels.  In addition, over the past three years, MBDA assisted 832 Asian American-owned businesses in obtaining $255 million in contracts and capital, a sold 13% increase from previous years.  Read more about the great work that MBDA and other agencies are doing to support AAPI businesses and the community here.  


 Agency Announcements


 Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers


Beginning March 4, 2013, certain immigrant visa applicants who are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives) can apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers before they leave the United States. The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows individuals, who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence, to apply for a waiver in the United States and before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The new process is expected to shorten the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members are obtaining immigrant visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Read more here.


Updated Tool Helps Schools Track FAFSA Completion


In March 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of an innovative Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators and practitioners both track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country. Prior to publishing this data, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had were from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable. Through the FAFSA Completion Tool, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. Read more here.


U.S. Department of Education Announces 11 States Will Receive Funding to Continue Efforts to Turn Around Their Lowest-Performing Schools


On March 11, 2013, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that 11 states will receive funding to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest achieving schools through the Department's School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. "When schools fail, our children and our neighborhoods suffer," Duncan said. "Turning around our lowest-performing schools is hard work but it's our responsibility. The states that will receive continuation awards are: Connecticut—$3.6 million; Kentucky—$7.7 million; Maryland—$6.8 million; Minnesota—$5.5 million; Mississippi—$6.1 million; New Mexico—$4.1 million; Ohio—$20.2 million; South Carolina—$7.4 million; South Dakota—$1.5 million; Utah—$3.4 million; and West Virginia—$3.3 million. Read more here.


U.S. Department of Education Announces New Executive Director of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans


U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced the appointment of David J. Johns as executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. "David’s expertise will be critical in helping to address the academic challenges that many African American students face, and I am delighted to have him on our team," Duncan said. "His wealth of knowledge and passion will help the Department move forward in its quest to ensure that all children are college and career ready." As executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, Johns will work to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African American student achievement—from cradle to career. Read more here.


Obama Administration Releases February Housing Scorecard


On March 8, 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury released the February edition of the Obama Administration's Housing Scorecard – a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market. Data continue to show important progress across many key indicators—as home prices ended the year with strong gains and purchases of new homes and sales of existing homes were also strong—although officials caution that the overall recovery remains fragile. Read this article and visit the full Housing Scorecard here.


Secretary Salazar Approves Three Renewable Energy Projects in California and Nevada


As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand domestic energy production, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on March 13, 2013, the approval of three major renewable energy projects that, when built, are expected to deliver 1,100 megawatts to the grid – enough to power more than 340,000 homes – and help support more than 1,000 jobs through construction and operations. The 750-megawatt McCoy Solar Energy Project and 150-megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Farm are both located in California’s Riverside East Solar Energy Zone, an area established through the Western Solar Energy Plan as most suitable for solar development. Read more here.


Veteran Unemployment Decreases in February


On March 8, 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Veteran unemployment data for the month of February. The unemployment rate for all Veterans was 6.9 percent in February—a decrease from 7.6 percent in January and still below the national average of 7.7 percent. For post-9/11 Veterans, the rate dropped to 9.4 percent in February compared to 11.7 percent in January. In 2012, over 1 million Veterans were unemployed but today that number has dropped down to 772,000. Read more here.


DoD’s Top Doctor Details Sequester’s Effect on Health System


On March 13, 2013, The Pentagon’s top health affairs official detailed for Congress the immediate and long-term effects of sequestration on the U.S. Department of Defense’s military health care system and its medical mission. Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee that the spending cuts that took effect March 1 will affect patients, staff and facilities. But he emphasized that the Defense Department “cannot and will not” compromise care in the face of the cuts. “First, our commitment to quality of care is sacrosanct,” he said. “We will not allow quality to suffer or place any patient at risk, period.” The department also will ensure that wounded warriors continue to receive the care they need. Read more here.


Sequestration to Impact Recruiting


The Army projects a decrease in 10,000 to 14,000 recruits across the services this fiscal year as military entrance processing stations shut down one day per week. Beginning next month, civilian military entrance processing stations, or MEPS, employees will be furloughed, said the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-1, Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg. He explained that the Army is the executive agent for MEPS, which processes entry-level personnel for all the armed forces. Bromberg and the other service chiefs testified Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of the continuing resolution and sequestration and how it will affect military personnel, their families and the operations and maintenance budget. Read more here.


Civil Action Team Helps Palau Community


The 523rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, charged 13 Soldiers with continuing the success of the inter-service rotational Civic Action Team in Palau, an island in the western Pacific Ocean and part of the larger island group of Micronesia, for the next eight months. The team is tasked with providing construction support, grassroots events, and civic health engagements in order to foster goodwill and collaboration between the two nations. Read more here.


Students Develop Innovative Solutions for Energy Efficient Buildings


Every year, the U.S. spends about $200 billion to power our office buildings, shopping mall and stores. Yet, about 30 percent of this money is wasted. Hoping to tap the creative thinking of the nation’s university students, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the Better Buildings Case Competition. This year, 14 university teams -- made up of undergraduate and graduate students with backgrounds in business, engineering, public policy and urban planning -- tackled four of the toughest knots in energy efficiency. Using real-world scenarios and data, students had two months to develop innovative solutions for common efficiency challenges -- from creating a plan for early retirement of equipment to justifying and installing metering to designing financial models that municipalities can use to improve their own buildings -- that real-world private-sector organizations, and state and local governments could replicate. Read more here.