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October 6, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
U.S. Secret Service APA Heritage Month
Washington, D.C.
Friday, May 22, 2008

Thank you, Mark [Mark Sullivan, Director, U.S. Secret Service]. It's good to be here. The Secret Service helps our country in so many ways. And it is certainly an extraordinary achievement to be a part of the United States Secret Service. The integrity and heroism of the members of the Secret Service have made it one of the most well-known and respected federal agencies in the country. I have seen the integrity and professionalism of the Secretary Service firsthand: the Department of Labor's Inspector General, Gordon Heddell, is a former member of the Secret Service, as well as many of the senior leadership team in the Office of the Inspector General, and the Chief of my protective detail, Dennis Chomicki.

It is well known that your historic mission has grown from investigating the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. The "protective envelope" you provide to the President and Vice President of the United States, and their families, allows our country's leaders to focus on the responsibilities of their offices. It also helps us all sleep a little better each night.

And while you still protect the integrity of the nation's currency, today, the Secret Service does so much more. You also safeguard our payment and financial systems more broadly by investigating financial institution fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, money laundering and other forms of fraud.

This is so important. As you know, our nation's economy is currently experiencing some short-term challenges due to the housing and credit markets. However, the long-term prospects for economy remain strong. Over the past six years I have watched America's economy rebound against challenge after challenge with remarkable resiliency and consistency. One reason is because our economic system is based on the rule of law, transparency, and accountability. And the investigative work that you do contributes to the success of our system and the long-term strength and stability of the American economy.

Along with what you do on the job, who you are also makes a difference. As Asian Pacific Americans in law enforcement, you have a key role to play in helping to build bridges of understanding between mainstream America and the growing immigrant community in the United States.

Asian Pacific Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S. Over the past 15 years, the Asian Pacific American population has grown from about 3 percent of America's total population to about 5 percent. The percentage of Asian Pacific Americans in the federal workforce has also increased from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 5.3 percent in 2007. I'm proud of the fact that this Administration has appointed more than 400 Asian Pacific Americans to highest level positions across the federal government. That's more than all the previous administrations combined. And the Department of Labor has the highest percentage of Asian Pacific Americans appointed to senior management of any Cabinet agency.

But there is always more that can be done. So at the Department of Labor, we have launched several programs to help Asian Pacific Americans — and other underserved communities — take advantage of the opportunities available in this country.

For the first time ever, since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics now reports monthly employment data on Asian Pacific Americans as a separate, independent category. That's how we now know that the unemployment rate for Asian Pacific Americans is right around 3 percent.

The Department has also made a special effort to target enforcement of our nation's wage and hour laws on industries that employ large numbers of immigrants. In 2007, the Department recovered more than $220 million for workers who did not receive the wages they were due, many of whom were vulnerable immigrants.

We have also created the annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit, to help our community access the skills necessary to advance within the federal workforce. The very first one took place in May 2002 in the auditorium in the Frances Perkins Building. About two hundred people attended. Today, these summits are held at major hotels around town because the crowds are so large — more than 1100 people attended the last one. And, we had more than 1200 this year — the greatest number ever. We open the doors for all who are interested. And, in fact, we are also growing more diverse every year. I should also note that the training received there is officially approved by the Office of Personnel Management.

In addition, we created the annual Opportunity Conference. This was specifically designed to help underserved communities, including Asian Pacific Americans, access greater opportunities in mainstream America. We've now had five Opportunity Conferences and these, too, have become very popular and have grown by leaps and bounds. Attendance has now reached over 1000.

Also, to help employers and workers, the Department has translated numerous labor law materials into multiple languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean so that employers and workers with limited English proficiency would know their rights and responsibilities.

And in an effort to help foster a new generation of leaders and promote diversity in the workforce, the Department established an internship program that over 100 Asian Pacific have participated in. Every year I meet with all of the Asian Pacific American interns in the Washington D.C. area to highlight careers in leadership.

There are tremendous possibilities ahead. Over the next 10 years, 60 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement. And more than one-third of employees in SES positions are expected to retire. This upcoming wave of retirements presents a wonderful opportunity for advancement.

And as the U.S. becomes part of an increasingly worldwide economy, diversity is emerging as a key competitive advantage for our country. As the private sector workforce increases in diversity, our government ranks should reflect this diversity as well.

I'm so proud of the many accomplishments Asian Pacific Americans have achieved over these last seven-plus years.

So thank you for being here today and for allowing me to share in this celebration. By protecting American and world leaders and safeguarding our country's financial systems, you play a critical role in ensuring the stability of our nation and the economy. Thank you for your service, and God bless you.


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