In June of 1977, U.S. Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Mineta of California introduced a resolution to establish Asian Pacific Heritage Week, to be celebrated each year at the beginning of May. Hawaiian senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The following year, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a joint resolution to establish the annual event, and the first celebration took place in May of 1979. In 1992, the month of May was designated by President George H. W. Bush as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The annual celebration honors the many contributions and accomplishments of Asian Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and Native Hawaiians.
Hiram Fong, one of Hawaii’s first two senators, became the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1959. Seven others have followed in his historic footsteps: Samuel Hayakawa of California (1977-1983); Spark Matsunaga (1977-1990), Daniel Inouye (1963-2012), and Daniel Akaka (1990-2013) all of Hawaii; and current senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Kamala Harris of California.