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How Should We Celebrate Asian Heritage Month?

In May, our nation celebrates the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Many people will watch wonderful performances of Chinese Kung Fu and Indian dancing, and taste delicious Chinese and Korean cuisines. Today, when many Americans are still struggling with various parenting, education, money management, personal and family development issues, I urge them to take it one step further, learn from the great cultural values Asian Americans have brought to this country.

Asian Americans have been recognized as “the Model Minority” by the American media since 1960s. In a 2012 Pew Research Center Report “The Rise of Asian Americans,” Asian Americans are applauded as “the highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the US.” Following are a few impressive facts:

  1. Family income: In 2010, the median income of Asian Americans was $66,000 while the median income of the U.S. population in general was $49,800.
  2. Education: In 2010, 49% of Asian Americans held a college degree or higher while the percentage for the general American population was only 28.2%. Over 90% of Asian American high school graduates enrolled in college. Their enrollments in our most prestigious universities, including the Ivy League schools, Stanford, and MIT, are several times higher than their 5.6% as reflected in the U.S. population.
  3. Family management and crime control: Asian Americans generally have lower rates of divorce, obesity, crime, and drug abuse than the general population. For example, the divorce rate among Asian Americans is less than half of the national average and the crime rate is only one quarter of the national average.

In particular, Asian Americans succeed in many critical areas in which our nation is struggling, such as science and math education, money management, family stability, and crime and obesity control.  They have also weathered the financial crisis better than any other racial group. Many working class Asian Americans were able to invest in real estate when its price dropped to the bottom.

What are the secrets behind Asian Americans’ success? Their cultural heritages. One of the most important is the inspiring Confucian values on personal and family development. As early as in 1979, Herman Kahn, the world-famous futurist, attributed the rapid economic growth of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore to the cultural strengths of the Confucian Values. One year later, Roderick MacFarquhar, the world-renowned expert on China and Harvard Professor, declared: “That ideology [Confucianism] is as important to the rise of the east Asian hyper-growth economies as the conjunction of Protestantism and the rise of capitalism in the West.” It also contributes greatly to the rise of China.

It is the same set of Confucian values that also help Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans to succeed in the US. After they immigrated to America, they embraced and benefited from many important Western values such as rule of law, equal rights, and independent thinking. At the same time, they retained much of their own cultural heritage, predominantly Confucian values, such as the emphasis on education, saving, and devotion to the family. It is the combination of these positive values drawn from both Confucianism and Western culture that make many Asian Americans successful in their pursuit of the American Dream!

By opening their minds to learn inspiring Confucian values, many families will be able to improve their parenting, education, financial and family management skills. When good values and practices are promoted, families will reap the benefits and our society will advance.