[ Text Version | Word97 Version ]

Comments of Harold Furchtgott-Roth
At a Gathering at the Federal Communications Commission
In Honor of
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 18, 1999

My oldest child is 10. I remember vividly about 9 years ago, he sat in high chair and said his first intelligible words. He pushed some food away and said "B'yao," Chinese for "I don't want."

All of my children have grown up speaking Chinese. On Sunday afternoons, we take them to Potomac Chinese School to learn Chinese characters. They have lots of homework from Chinese school.

I mention this not because I am of Asian descent. I am not. I mention this because I am an American.

There is no greater privilege in the world than to be an American.

You can do what you want to do, and the government will not stand in the way.

You can learn what you want to learn, say what you want to say, teach your children as you see fit. You can teach them Chinese, or anything else.

America has freedom. But it has more than freedom alone; it is nation dedicated to equality.

Other countries place one land above another.

Not America.

Other countries place one people above another.

Not America.

Other countries place one religion above another.

Not America.

Other countries place one class above another.

Not America.

America was founded based on the powerful ideas of equality:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

The Declaration of Independence is a document that speaks of the universal equality. Not equality of some, not even an equality of just Americans, but a universal equality.

Other countries are premised on preserving the government. America is premised on the government serving the people, people created in equality.

The American government has enormous responsibilities. We are judged on well we follow the law, and on how well we follow the Constitution and the principles that formed the basis for this republic.

The ideas of this great nation are so powerful that they make mere citizens tremble. We public servants have enormous responsibilities to uphold.

Responsibilities to the equality of people that government officials have often failed to uphold.

Public officials failed when they allowed the institution of slavery to be enforced and to survived.

Public officials failed when they treated Native Americans less well than other people.

Public officials failed when they allowed discriminatory immigration policies.

Public officials failed at the beginning of World War II when they placed certain people selected by birth and heritage in internment camps.

America is a nation of endless possibilities, but it is also a country, like other countries, with a government of public servants who have failings.

We at the FCC have a challenge: to follow the law, to be faithful to the Constitution, and to treat people equally. To treat no one better, and no one worse, than anyone else.

Today's celebration is for Asian-Pacific Heritage Month. This is a celebration not for some Americans, but for all Americans.

Thank you very much.