What President Obama said about Asian Americans and civil rights in this week’s #SOTU

by Joy Lee

During President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, he touched on many issues important to Asian Americans. Here are some of our favorite lines from the speech:

On equality

The president emphasized the value and worth of every human being, regardless of color, status, or sexual orientation. He said, “As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened.”

“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

On the right to vote

Just one day after MLK Day, President Obama took the opportunity during his State of the Union to address the need to restore voting rights, following an election year when new voter ID laws caused confusion and made it more difficult to vote in some states.

“We can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.”

On anti-hate

The president strongly discouraged hate sentiments toward Muslim Americans and LGBT individuals, making it the the first time lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have ever been recognized directly in a State of the Union address.

“We continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

On immigration

The president reminded us that the United States is a nation of immigrants.

“Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

On economic justice

President Obama emphasized the need to raise the minimum wage, which Asian Americans overwhelmingly support.

“If you truly believe you could work full-time & support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.”

Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC praised the president for his vision for a country were all Americans can access equal economic and educational opportunities.

“President Obama reminded us tonight that true equality begins with providing equal access to opportunity. As a new American community, providing for our children and increasing their educational opportunities is extremely important. There are large disparities between Asian American ethnic groups, and many of our communities — similar to Latinos and African Americans — struggle to make ends meet, find affordable housing and access quality education and employment. The president’s vision is one that will help our families achieve the American dream.”

Check out NBC.com’s roundup of reactions to the speech from more Asian American civil rights leaders.

Joy Lee is the Communications Advocacy Fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

Further reading:

Advancing Justice | AAJC Statement: 2015 State of the Union Address

Applauding the State of the Union Address, Still Hoping for More, NBC News, January 21, 2015

Transcript: President Obama’s State of the Union Address, NY Daily News, January 20, 2015

Transgender Individuals Recognized For First Time Ever In A State Of The Union Speech, Huffington Post, January 20, 2015

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb

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