Story by Lt. Col. Cindi King
South Carolina National Guard
The gathering gave attendees an opportunity to learn more about diversity and Asian-Pacific customs with this year’s theme, “Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Raj Aluri, founder of the International Friendship Ministries and Columbia International Festival, shared his appreciation for the greatness in America and thanked members of the South Carolina National Guard for their service before discussing his background and experiences as a native of India.
“Every segment of our society has great diversity,” said Aluri. “We trace the greatest of our nation to our heritage and the generations who came to America even 400 years ago as immigrants.”
Following his presentation, dancers from the Pacific Nesian Dance Group demonstrated dance moves inspired from Samoa and Hawaii.
“Events like this celebration provide us an opportunity to get to know one another a little better and to appreciate our uniqueness,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Roy Van McCarty, deputy adjutant general for South Carolina.
The gathering, sponsored by the South Carolina National Guard’s Equal Opportunity Office, was part of the Department of Defense’s program to encourage diversity and awareness of cultures around the world. In 1978, Congress passed a joint resolution to commemorate Asian American Heritage Week during the first week of May. In 1992 it was officially designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage month.
Following the formal presentations and dance demonstrations, attendees were invited to view educational displays featuring island specific art, crafts, jewelry, food and clothing.
“We thank all of the performers for sharing their heritage with us,” said McCarty. “When we look around at our diversity, we see there is always something special everyone brings to the table. That’s what makes organizations like ours great.”