Each May, our country celebrates Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, honoring the history, culture and contributions of our nation’s more than 18 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

According to the official Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month website, this commemorative month began with a congressional bill, which was first introduced by Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California in June 1977. They asked that the first 10 days of May be recognized as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week.

The following month, Sens. Daniel Inouye and Spark Marsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both of these bills passed.

On Oct. 5, 1978, Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution designating Asian-Pacific Heritage Week as an annual celebration.

Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush extended the weeklong celebration into a month-long one.  In 1992 Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

Why the month of May? It was chosen to highlight two events in Asian and Pacific Islander history: the commemoration of the first Japanese migration to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, constructed primarily by Chinese immigrants, on May 10, 1869.

This month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich history and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders and to reflect on what is next for this fastest-growing racial group in the United States.