[PROFILE] Robert A. Underwood
- Spotlight on Robert A. Underwood
By TJ DeGroat / ©Asian Diversity
As Guam's Robert A. Underwood winds down his five-term career in the
United States Congress, groups such as the Japanese-American Citizens
League (JACL) are honoring the politician's commitment to the Asian-
American and Pacific-Islander community.
The board of the San Francisco-based JACL, the country's oldest and
largest Asian-American civil-rights group, last month passed a
resolution commending Underwood's leadership on issues integral to
the community's fight for equality.
'Rep. Underwood has been a great champion of [Asian-American] issues
throughout his tenure in the House of Representatives,' said John
Tateishi, JACL's executive director. 'I could always expect his
support on those issues that matter to the community. We're losing a
real friend in the Congress. He'll be sorely missed.'
In its resolution, the JACL board pointed out some of Underwood's
myriad contributions to the Asian-American community. Among them was
his successful fight to pass a $5.124 million appropriation to
establish a visitor center at the Manzanar National Historic Site in
Independence, Calif., the site of an internment camp that housed
relocated Japanese Americans during World War II.
During his 10 years as a representative, Underwood also helped
establish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific
Islanders and spearheaded the campaign to overturn English-only
legislation. For his effort, Underwood was named Citizen of the Year
in 1996 by the National Association for Bilingual Education.
Underwood also served as chairperson of the Congressional Asian
Pacific American Caucus.
'The integrity, commitment and leadership he brought to his work were
an asset not only to the people of Guam but also to the entire
country,' said JACL National President Floyd Mori. 'We thank him for
his dedication and wish him well back in Guam."
Guam, the largest of the 2,000 islands in Micronesia, is the
westernmost territory of the United States. At about 212 square
miles, the island is nearly 3 times the size of Washington, D.C.
About 47 percent of Guam's 150,000 residents are the indigenous
Chamorros, but Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans make up large
portions of the population as well.
Underwood was elected to Congress after a successful career as a high
school teacher and a stint as academic vice president of the
University of Guam.
Underwood, his wife and their five children splits their time between
Alexandria, Va. and Yona, Guam.