Obama restores panel to address Asian-American concerns

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday to restore a panel for addressing concerns of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. "I proudly sign this executive order reestablishing the President's Advisory Commission and White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders," the president said at a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House. While praising achievements of the AAPI communities, who account for 4.7 percent of the U.S. population, Obama said that the country should not overlook challenges facing these communities, including health, educational, economic and employment disparities, language barriers and crimes. He said he decided to sign the order because "when any of our citizens are unable to fulfill their potential due to factors that have nothing to do with their talent, character, or work ethic, then I believe there's a role for our government to play." Under the order, the panel will be located in the Department of Education and will be co-chaired by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. It will work with 23 government agencies and departments to improve the health, education, and economic status of AAPI communities. The panel was created during the Clinton administration 10 years ago, but expired under former president George W. Bush. At the signing ceremony, Obama also observed Diwali, or the "Festival of Lights," an important holiday for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs that falls on the coming Saturday.