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Political Pioneers

Throughout history, Asian Pacific Americans have been advocates for civil rights, social justice and political empowerment. Here are few outstanding leaders who have worked to improve the lives of all Americans.

Dalip Singh Saund

In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund, an immigrant from India, became the first Asian American elected to Congress. Serving for three terms as congressional representative from California in the House of Representatives, Saund worked to improve relations between the United States and Asia.

Hiram Fong

Hiram Fong was a public servant, an advocate of Hawaiian statehood and the first Asian American U.S. Senator. In the Senate, Fong was a strong supporter of immigration reform and was instrumental in passing the Immigration Act of 1965.

Daniel Inouye

A member of the 442nd RCT during WWII, Daniel Inouye became the first congressional representative from the new state of Hawaii in 1959. In 1962 Inouye ran for Senate and won serving Hawaii in the Senate ever since. The Senator received a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Medal of Honor for his service during World War II.

Patsy Takemoto Mink

In 1964, Patsy Mink became first Asian American woman to serve in Congress as a representative from Hawaii. During her time in congress, Mink was a champion of both the rights of Asian Pacific Americans and women's rights. She was instrumental in passing the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, or Title IX which protected against gender discrimination in educational programs activities, including athletics.

Norman Mineta

In 2000, Mineta became the first Asian American to be a member of a president's cabinet. In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed him Secretary of Commerce. In 2001, he became Secretary of transportation, appointed by President George W. Bush. As a boy, Mineta was interned at Heart Mountain, a relocation camp in Wyoming. As a congressional representative, he co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as was a driving force behind passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.