August 1999


Richardson addresses
Asian Pacific American concerns
My response is simple: Americans are Americans—period.”

Secretary Richardson said this in the course of a talk that he gave at Los Alamos National Laboratory on June 24. The reason that he gave this talk was his concern that Asian Pacific Americans might feel that their patriotism was being questioned in the wake of the espionage allegations. As a result they are concerned that their careers at the labs might suffer as a result.

Representatives of the ethnic Chinese science community at ORNL recently met with me to express their concern that they might be singled out as a group in such a way that it becomes more difficult for them to get their work done.

A citizen’s patriotism should never be questioned because he or she is a member of a group, a minority, a religion, etc. The act of a single individual is just that. There should never be any extension to guilt by association. I identify with and strongly support the sentiments expressed by Secretary Richardson.

I had a previous speech on this subject by Secretary Richardson posted on the May 24 edition of ORNL Today. Since I can’t improve on the Secretary’s June 24 speech at Los Alamos, I am having it reproduced here.
Al Trivelpiece


Let me say right at the start: I’m here today to listen and hear your ideas and concerns.

I wanted to meet with you because I am concerned that Asian Pacific Americans may feel their patriotism is being questioned in the wake of espionage allegations; and that some are worried that the careers of Asian Pacific Americans at the labs will suffer as a result. Let me tell you: I will fight to the last to see that this doesn’t happen.

As a Hispanic American, I have felt first-hand the effects of racism. And I will not tolerate it. On this you have my word. The alleged actions of any individual should not—and do not—reflect on any other American citizen. This is a central creed of the Department of Energy, the Clinton Administration, and the laws of our nation. We need the contributions of the nation’s best scientists. And Asian Americans have been—and will continue to be—important members of the scientific community.

Americans of Asian descent have made exceptional contributions to America’s scientific excellence and national security. I recently read a letter that President Clinton received from Charles Sie, the Vice Chairman of the Committee of 100, which dramatically illustrated the magnitude of contributions Asian Pacific Americans have made to our national science. In a word, it is astounding.

Mr. Sie noted that there are about 150,000 Chinese American scientists and engineers working in America. In the defense industry alone, contributions from Chinese American scientists and engineers have been indispensable in America’s legacy of achievement. Dr. Shao-chi Lin and Professor H. K. Cheng of University of Southern California established the physics of hypersonic flow, which enabled the successful re-entry of the ICBMs and spacecraft into the atmosphere.

Andrew Chi of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center developed the Cesium-133 atomic clock, which is the heart of the Global Positioning System, or GPS. GPS helped us win in Desert Storm and bring peace to Kosovo. You can also find commercial units in the latest automotive offerings from Detroit, helping make our lives better.

These are just a handful of examples by Chinese Americans—but they are hallmarks of the remarkable legacy of achievement by Asian Pacific Americans. It’s a legacy I won’t let be tarnished by single individuals.

Over the past three months, I’ve met with leaders in the Asian Pacific American community. I have told the senior managers at the Department that the actions of one are not a reflection of the community at large. And I recently issued a directive to the Department and lab directors that I’ll brook no quarter on this.

I have established a task force—led by Deputy Secretary T. J. Glauthier—which will closely examine concerns on this subject. The first action of the task force will be to make visits to the labs to hear first-hand what the concerns are. Our meeting today is one in a number I am holding this summer to help uncover any problems and make sure that there is no racial profiling or discrimination at the Department of Energy and its laboratories.

In the wake of espionage allegations, we’ve received inquiries about the ethnic heritage of the employees at our labs.

My response is simple: Americans are Americans—period.

I know some are concerned that a recently terminated employee at Los Alamos may have been singled out for unusually harsh treatment. Some have questioned how this employee could have been fired if no legal charges have been brought against him. We took action against the employee separate and apart from the legal case because the employee committed serious breaches of Department security rules.

Now, as you know, at the root of the espionage controversy is a serious national security issue. But its gravity punctuates the steps we’ve taken to protect secrets at our labs.

No mission has been more important to me than improved counterintelligence and security at our national labs. In the nine months since my appointment, these safeguards have been dramatically strengthened and improved.

But I need your help to carry these security measures out to their full potential. I want to make clear to you my commitment—and I need the same from you.

I need strength and vigilance and an absolute commitment to security. We must have world-class science. We need our scientists at the national labs to do world-class science in order to maintain national security.

These two missions are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent. Unfortunately, some in Congress—in the name of “increasing security”—are calling for draconian measures that would actually weaken our ability to carry out the important defense missions at the labs. Some have called for closing the labs off from foreign cooperation. Some wanted a two-year moratorium on foreign scientists visiting our labs.

This is not the right way to ensure security—so I put the strength of my position as Energy Secretary against those actions. I explained to critics that we engage in research with foreign scientists because it is in our national security interest. Isolating the labs is bad for the nation.

Two weeks ago, we had victories in the House of Representatives, blocking these wrong-headed ideas. And I have continued testifying before Congress to push against these ill-suited measures. America was built on the joint labors of so many different peoples—people like you and me.

The Clinton Administration has worked to empower Asian and Pacific Americans in every aspect of American life: the economy, civil rights laws, health and education, and racial reconciliation.

These are actions of progress—of empowerment, not discouragement. But let me be clear: If you have experienced discrimination of any kind, I need to hear from you. I need specifics if we are to best respond to concerns in the community. You can tell me now, or you can contact my office in Washington privately. Either way, I need those with specific concerns to speak up. Only then can we get to the real root of this problem.

Speaking to you as Secretary of Energy, let me be clear: I will not let the actions of one individual block this nation’s progress toward empowering all citizens. For 223 years, Americans have pushed this nation—and its ideals—forward. We certainly aren’t stopping now.