Influential Asian-Americans to celebrate Asian-American Heritage Month

Karen Wu

From the wildly popular film “Crazy Rich Asians” to the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, Asian-Pacific Americans have had a huge impact on the United States.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is notable because its an all-Asian cast, a rarity in a movie industry mostly populated by white actors and actresses. However, the movie could’ve been whitewashed. Kevin Kwan, author of “Crazy Rich Asians,” told the radio show Fresh Air that one producer had offered to make his book into a movie on the condition that the main character Rachel Chu, a Chinese American in the novel, be changed to a white girl.

“I knew that this movie would be a challenge because I knew it needed an all-Asian cast,” Kwan told Fresh Air. “And so I knew that a lot of traditional Hollywood would find it to be not a viable project.”

The movie ended up being a commercial success, earning $174,532,921 in the domestic box office.

“We are not supporting roles,” Constance Wu, who plays Rachel Chu in “Crazy Rich Asians,” said to Time Magazine. “We are stars on our own journeys.”

In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, this article highlights the achievements of even more Asian-Pacific Americans in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), politics, and art.


Sundar Pichai was born in Madurai, India and grew up in a two-room apartment. He initially went to the United States to study at Stanford and eventually decided to stay in the country. Pichai joined Google in 2004 as the head of product management and development. Currently, Pichai is the CEO. He has overseen Google products such as Google Chrome, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Maps and Android.

David Ho was born in Taichung, a small town in Taiwan, and later moved to the United States at age 12. He was one of the first researchers to identify HIV and has since helped develop a treatment for the disease. Ho is the scientific director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.

“People get to this new world, and they want to carve out their place in it,” Ho told Time magazine. “The result is dedication and a higher level of work ethic. You always retain a bit of an underdog mentality.”

Jerry Yang, the founder and former CEO of Yahoo, was born in Taipei, Taiwan. After his father died when he was young, his mother moved the family to the United States. Adapting to the new life was difficult for Yang, but he ended up experiencing great success.


Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to Congress. During her time as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives for Hawaii’s 2nd District, she supported social welfare, equality and family reunification provisions in immigration bills. She also educated people about the Japanese American internment camps.

Kamala Harris is a Democratic senator from California, the former California Attorney General, and a 2020 presidential candidate. She is the second African American woman and the first South-Asian American to be elected to the US Senate. Her mother immigrated from India and her father immigrated from Jamaica.

“In the face of powerful forces trying to sow hate and division among us, the truth is that as Americans we have much more in common than what separates us,” Harris said in her formal entrance speech to the 2020 presidential election.

Tulsi Gabbard is also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. She is a member of the House of Representatives from Hawaii and served several tours of duty in the Middle East. Gabbard is the first Samoan American and the first Hindu to serve in Congress. While she was originally anti-LGBT rights, she has since apologized.


Maya Lin, who was born to intellectuals that fled China, is best known for designing the Vietnam War Memorial. The design attracted controversy because it was constructed out of dark granite, which many felt implied the war was something to be ashamed of. Lin also designed the Civil Rights Memorial and has explored environmental issues in her works.

Amy Tan wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Joy Luck Club,” which explores the relation between Chinese women and their American-born daughters. She was born in Oakland, California to Chinese immigrants.

“Reading for me was a refuge,” Tan said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “I could escape from everything that was miserable in my life and I could be anyone I wanted to be in a story, through a character.”

IM Pei was born in Guangzhou, China. He studied architecture at Harvard and later created a scholarship for Chinese students to study architecture in America. A few of Pei’s notable designs include the JFK Library, Museum of Fine Arts and the glass pyramid at the Louvre.