Below you will find news stories and commentary relevant to JACL members.
The JACL was very happy to learn of the awarding of the National Parks Service (NPS) grant to the JACL for our program: “Passing the Legacy Down: Youth Interpretations of Confinement Sites in the Western United States.” The sites which will be used in the project are Manzanar, Minidoka, and Tule Lake with our Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco Regional Offices. This grant will enable us to continue to teach youth about the internment experience of Japanese Americans during World War II.
The NPS grants program entitled “The Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program” was established for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. The law authorized up to $38 million for the entire life of the grant program to identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair, and acquire historic confinement sites in order that present and future generations may learn of this important time in history when the constitution did not protect innocent American citizens. We appreciate Congress for approving this program and extend our special thanks to former Congressman Bill Thomas (R-CA), who was instrumental, along with many others, in bringing this to pass. It was signed by President George W. Bush. We are also grateful to the National Parks Service, which administers the grant program. Congress must appropriate the funds for these grants each year.
As I mentioned in a report to the JACL membership last year when we were not awarded a grant, these grants do not simply materialize but are the result of a lot of hard work. When we received an NPS grant in 2009 for the Bridging Communities program, which brought together Japanese American youth with American Muslim youth to learn of the camps and our history, Craig Ishi, formerly Regional Director for the Pacific Southwest (PSW) District, worked hard on writing the grant. For this year’s grant, the application work was done largely by Jean Shiraki, former JACL Inouye Fellow in the Washington D.C. office. We thank them for their hard work.
Recently I heard of a complaint made by a person whose family was held captive by the Japanese military in the Philippines during World War II. He was complaining that Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II in America’s concentration camps were later compensated by the government, and his family received nothing from the Japanese. Again, these things do not just happen, but they are the result of a LOT of hard work. It took over ten years of very concentrated effort by many people to obtain the final result of Redress. The government did not just arbitrarily decide that Japanese Americans deserved to be given an apology and reparations for being forcibly removed from their west coast homes and incarcerated in camps in remote and desolate areas of the country. They were imprisoned surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, and the majority of them were American citizens being treated in this manner by their own country. Redress took a lot of hard work by lots of people working for a common goal.
The JACL has done and continues to do good and important things for Americans of Japanese ancestry and others. It is vital that we keep working hard. Worthwhile results require a lot of work.
Washington, D.C. -- The JACL was very much involved with the Congressional Gold Medal events which took place this week in Washington, D.C. As a member of the National Veterans Network (NVN), the JACL has played a big role in the planning and execution of the celebration. This much deserved and long overdue recognition honored the Japanese American veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the United States Army during World War II.
Japanese Americans were considered as non-citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941. All Japanese Americans were immediately looked upon as the enemy. The long held prejudices they endured came to the forefront as 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes on the west coast in a forced evacuation and incarcerated in hastily constructed illegal detention camps in desolate areas of the United States where they were surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards facing inward. Although there were young Japanese Americans who wanted to serve in the military and tried to enlist, they found that all Japanese Americans had been reclassified and were ineligible to join the armed forces of the United States.
Mike Masaoka, an early leader in the JACL, was sent by the organization to Washington, D.C. to work for the abolition of the camps and to mitigate the effects of the relocation. He suggested that the Japanese American community should cooperate with the government, and they actually had no other choice. He worked for the reinstatement of Japanese Americans into the United States military, and the result was the creation of a segregated unit of Japanese Americans which combined with the 100th Infantry Battalion of Hawaii and became the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Mike was one of the first to sign up to join the Army, and he went off to war after being married to his bride, Etsu Mineta Masaoka in Salt Lake City. Three of his brothers also served with one losing his life in the war.
At a time when they and their families faced extreme prejudice and discrimination, these brave and patriotic Japanese American young men served their country in the armed forces. They showed unusual dedication and sacrificed greatly, some paying the ultimate sacrifice to prove their loyalty and serve where needed. Japanese Americans served in other branches of the military as well.
On May 13, 2009, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff from California introduced Congressional Gold Medal Bill HR 347 to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It unanimously passed the House of Representatives on May 14 with 411 votes. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer also of California introduced S 1055 in the Senate. NVN established a grassroots push to lobby support from the Senators who had not signed on to the bill. The JACL supported this effort with JACL Fellows in the Washington, D.C. office, Phillip Ozaki and Jean Shiraki, visiting Senate offices along with Terry Shima and Grant Ichikawa, World War II veterans from the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA). The Senate passed S 1055 on August 1, 2010, which included an amendment to include the Military Intelligence Service. The House passed an amendment to include the MIS on September 23, 2010. President Obama signed the bill into law on October 4, 2010, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal collectively to the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service.
The Congressional Gold Medal events which took place in Washington, D.C. were held to honor the Japanese American veterans of World War II and were attended by over 2,500 people. There were more than 300 Japanese American World War II Veterans in attendance. The festivities were planned and executed by NVN, led by Christine Sato-Yamazaki.
Representing my family as a next of kin for my brother, Shigeru Mori, whose name is inscribed on the wall of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism as a killed in action soldier, I was honored to receive the replica Congressional Gold Medal in memory of my oldest brother who was in the MIS. Although I was a small child when he left for the war, I have fond memories of Shig as a kind and generous individual. He paid the ultimate price for the country he loved as did 812 others whose names are on the wall. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for them and for all the Japanese American veterans who gave so much to make a better world for all of us.
The JACL has honored Japanese American veterans many times over the years at conventions and other events. At its 2009 JACL Gala held in Washington, D.C., the JACL paid tribute to all veterans. It presented awards to some of the organizations which have served the Japanese American veterans and which are keeping alive this important part of United States history. Everyone present who had ever served in the military was honored and presented with a small gift from the JACL. The Japanese American veterans of World War II helped provide a better life for those who came after them. They are deserving of every honor, and we owe them a great deal.
For most of my working life, the issues that I have faced have centered around economics and financing projects. My first career out of college was as an economics professor at Chabot College. During my tenure at that college, I was elected to the City Council and then Mayor of the City of Pleasanton, California, where budgeting and planning for the future of a high growth city was the major focus. This local government experience launched me into an unexpected career in public service where I spent three terms as a full-time California State Assemblyman where my main assignments centered within the major economic issues of the day. During that time I had assignments on the Revenue and Taxation and Education Committees and was Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Government Administration, the Legislative Audit Committee, and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board Oversight Committee.
My third career was spent consulting large multimillion dollar mergers and international partnerships where I dealt with some of the Fortune 500 companies. While much of the work dealt with maintaining “relationships,” part of it entailed working with detailed profit and loss statements and future potential profit. I also owned and operated a golf equipment company which meant dealing in small business matters. The common theme of all of my professional work has been the need to visualize the future through the eyes of understanding the past and identifying the key current economic engines to move effectively into the future.
Recently I was able to see the movie, Moneyball, which tells the story of the transition of Major League Baseball from an old fashioned tradition laden institution to a modern technology and data driven financially efficient winning organization. By using current information and data, a team with a limited budget could outplay the teams with unlimited budgets. I mention this movie because the JACL is the team with the limited budget, but with the right mix of technology and current data we can enhance our winning record into winning the hearts and minds of the Asian American community.
The JACL is more than just a socially conscious human rights organization. In a more complex world of competing forces for scarce social capital, the JACL needs to focus more on an economic model that will maximize the use of our limited human and economic capital to maintain a winning record in the battle for fairness and equality. We cannot tie ourselves to old fashioned tradition laden practices and internal institutions that today form barriers that are preventing us from moving into the modern world of nonprofits.
The JACL’s network of chapters and members has been dwindling as we continue to use decades-old tools to capture and maintain members. Members may be a term of the past, and we need to look to friends, donors and supporters along with stronger outreach to build new partners in the corporate and foundation sectors. And, of course, the effective increased use of the internet to build new friends and communicate what we are doing is the key to the future. Without a heavy emphasis on modern tools of communication and fundraising and by continuing old, outdated, and expensive tools of communication that do nothing more than keep a few interested members at bay, we will dwindle as an effective social justice arm of the Asian American community and lose our place as a preserver of our rich cultural heritage.
Using what little economic analysis is needed and looking to the future of a very important voice for the Asian American community, I will be allocating more of our new funding towards overhauling our communications, membership and development functions within the JACL. It must be done today in order for us not only to stay in the ball game but for us to become big winners when the issues of human fairness and justice come to the forefront.
The JACL is a long way from becoming extinct, but it is near the point of economic stagnation. While sentiment and tradition are important, the business model we need to work towards will entail new internal structure, more focus on what and how we are communicating to the community beyond JACL members, and a total revamping of membership. If we do this, we will be strong. If we continue to resist any change, we are doomed to the minor leagues of nonprofits.
As the National Executive Director of the JACL, I get a lot of interesting email from friends, foes, institutions and political folks. This seems to be a season for trying to out-American one another. What I mean is that everybody is trying to show who is more American and who is not. Also, people seem to be worried about somebody else taking being American away from them, and we are encouraged to take being American back for ourselves. So it is my turn to describe what I think is a good American, particularly at this time when we remember 9/11 and a time when we all felt threatened by the events of the day.
One of the first attributes that pops in to my mind is an understanding and appreciation for sacrifice. First and foremost is to understand that we stand where we stand because many before us did sacrifice. Some made the ultimate sacrifice of giving life for the love of this country. Others sacrificed family and friends to follow a dream. Some gave up riches in order that others could prosper and gain self respect. Many have given their time and talents to build a better nation with principles that reflect love and respect for their fellow human beings. And because of the sacrifice of others, many are willing to sacrifice now in order that the future will be more peaceful and prosperous for our posterity.
Gratitude is said to be an attribute that fathers all other good things. An American is grateful for what he has and he understands that what he has is really not all of his own making. Being thankful for your partners, your parents, your family, your friends, and your associates who make life enjoyable and bearable in times of stress is a critical ingredient to being an American. Thankfulness bears the fruit of generosity toward those who are not as fortunate as oneself. And, yes, it is important to be grateful for an orderly and systematic governing process that allows us to improve upon what we have and to discard that which is obsolete and destructive in order that we maintain a just and fair society.
A good American knows the value of work, work with their hands as well as work with their minds. Physical and mental work creates an atmosphere that accepts entrepreneurship and free enterprise. Work helps us to respect the accomplishments of others and appreciate the product of all who labor. Work helps us to maintain a strong and healthy body and mind. So a good American does his share of work and will provide that others can engage in this activity of self respect.
Now does it require a person to be of a particular blood line or from a particular region of the globe to possess the above attributes? I say no. People of all backgrounds, from all parts of the Globe, and who speak any language can possess these attributes. Many diverse people do and can be called “Good Americans.” Americans are an array of varied cultures that have gathered in this geographical spot on the Globe to express similar values and attributes for the purpose of making some kind of progress while alive. To deny the flowering of these good American attributes is in a sense Un-American.
So I say, let us stop pointing the finger at others and do a self examination to see if we qualify ourselves to be a Good American. I hope most of us can say that we do appreciate and understand the sacrifices that have been made in behalf of our individual and collective selves. Let’s be grateful for the material and spiritual blessings we enjoy by living in this great Nation. Then may we work hard to make a better place for our children and our neighbor’s children by dong our share of giving back to the community which has given us much, meaning that we should be involved and willing to give service.
Lastly, may we recognize that diverse cultures can possess like attributes that can build strong and healthy communities. These are the kinds of Americans we all should strive to be.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) just completed its 2011National JACL Convention at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood. It was another successful convention which was the first on the annual convention schedule. The host was the Pacific Southwest District (PSW) with Gary Mayeda as Convention Chair.
Conventions require a lot of work from a lot of people in order to be successful. In addition to our thanks to Gary Mayeda, we are also grateful to others who worked hard on the convention and supported the events: Sonya Kuki, Karen Yoshitomi, Kerry Kaneichi, the PSW District and Chapters, the Convention Committee, the National JACL Staff and Board, Delegates, Sponsors, Exhibitors, Speakers, Panelists, Awardees, Guests, Boosters, Volunteers, and to everyone else who supported the Convention in any way. I would especially like to recognize the work of the National JACL staff, including Fellows and Interns. We were happy to see so many young people involved since they are our future and we have shifted a major focus to youth programs. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of the convention.
We offer our condolences to Gary Mayeda and his family on the loss of Gary’s mother who passed away just prior to the start of the convention after a bout with cancer. We know it was a difficult time for Gary, and we appreciate all his work.
Sponsors are very important, and we thank our sponsors: State Farm, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Union Bank, Comcast, Eli Lilly, National JACL Credit Union, Ford Motor Company, AARP, Caesar’s Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, JACL Insurance Services and Administrators, National Association of Realtors, Verizon, and Walmart. If we have missed anyone who should be listed, we apologize.
Conventions are a time to conduct the business of the organization, to make new friends, and to renew old friendships. It is always good to see Harry Honda, long time editor of the Pacific Citizen, and his wife as well as Shea Aoki, who has been attending the conventions from the beginning of the JACL. Etsu Mineta Masaoka had been registered for the convention but recently passed away. Her brother, the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, paid a tribute to Etsu, and was accompanied by his wife, Deni. Etsu’s son in law, Richard Amano, and granddaughter, Michelle Amano, were at the banquet. Several other dignitaries attended the dinner, including the Ambassador of Japan to the United States, the Honorable Ichiro Fujisaki, Congressman Mike Honda, Congresswoman Judy Chu, State Controller John Chiang, Assemblyman Warren Furutani, former JACL National Executive Director John Tateishi and his wife Carol, and others. It was good to see Craig Ishii, formerly Regional Director for PSW. People had a chance to visit with past National Presidents, Frank Chuman, Floyd Shimomura, Lillian Kimura, Ken Inouye, and Larry Oda. Tamlyn Tomita added vitality and energy to the program as banquet emcee. It is impossible to mention everyone, but we appreciate all who attended the convention.
Awards were presented to: Father Vien Nguyen, Lisa Hasegawa, Dan Choi, Alan Nishio, Traci Kato-Kiriyama, and Paul Osaki. These exemplary people have given back much to the communities they serve.
Thank you for the surprise expressions and tributes which I personally received at the convention because of my announced retirement from the JACL, which will likely occur at the end of this year. I am grateful to those who have offered their support and kindness. Leading any organization or group has its challenges and detractors, but good friends also come from it. I have appreciated the people with whom I have been privileged to associate and have enjoyed the work of trying to push forward the mission of the JACL.
The JACL is an important organization in the lives of many people. May the JACL continue with its important work and thrive in the coming years.
Thanks again, Gary, Sonya, Karen, Kerry, and everyone else who helped to make it a great convention. It’s not too early to begin planning to attend the 2012 National JACL Convention in Seattle.
The following information is taken from the National Parks Service (NPS) website at: http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/hpg/JACS/index.html
Congress established the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program (Public Law 109-441, 16 USC 461) for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. The law authorized up to $38 million for the entire life of the grant program to identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair, and acquire historic confinement sites in order that present and future generations may learn and gain inspiration from these sites and that these sites will demonstrate the nation’s commitment to equal justice under the law. For Fiscal Year 2010, Congress appropriated $3 million for the use of this grant program; an increase from the $1 million Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2009.
Information on the bill can be found at: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-1492
These grants do not simply materialize but are the result of a lot of hard work. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) played a vital role in bringing about this NPS grant program. The JACL has long felt that the preservation of the camp sites is important as a reminder of our history and to ensure that this travesty of justice is not repeated against any people. Some years ago while on personal business in Washington, D.C., I met with an old friend, Bill Thomas, who was then a U.S. Congressman from Bakersfield, California, a strong Republican leader, and chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Bill and I had served in the California State Assembly together in the late 1970’s and had developed a close friendship. When he was told what we were trying to do, he offered to carry the bill. It was extremely beneficial and important to have a Republican sponsor with the Republican Party at the time in the majority in the House and Senate and with a Republican President in the White House. Bill Thomas was the sponsor with 114 cosponsors.
When I became the JACL Director of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. in 2005, we continued to push forward on the bill with the Congressman and with the support of John Tateishi, then National Executive Director of the JACL. Gerald Yamada, a Washington, D.C. JACL member who was representing the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), worked with us. With the Congressman’s leadership, effort, and considerable influence, the bill was introduced on April 6, 2005, passed the House on November 16, 2005, passed the Senate, where it was introduced by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Bob Bennett (R-UT), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI), on November 16, 2006, and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 21, 2006. Congressman Thomas had decided to retire from the Congress, but he made sure that the bill was passed and signed before he left. We are deeply indebted to Congressman Thomas and others who supported the measure. The JACL presented Bill Thomas with an award for his significant contributions.
The bill authorized $38 million for preservation and interpretation of the confinement sites. However, it required a second phase of obtaining appropriations to actually distribute funds. This means that the JACL continuously works to have that money appropriated and placed in the Budget bill. We meet with the Department of Interior, the NPS, and Members of Congress on an ongoing basis to assure that money is appropriated each year. Awardees are selected by the NPS of the Department of Interior.
The JACL received an NPS grant of just over $150,000 in 2010 which made it possible to run our Bridging Communities Program. This program, in which young people from the Japanese American and American Muslim Communities come together to learn about each other and how the forced evacuation affected Japanese Americans as contrasted to the present day Islamaphobia which has existed since 9-11, was successfully carried out initially in the Pacific Southwest District (PSW) under the direction of Craig Ishii, then PSW Regional Director, partnering with the Greater Los Angeles Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress. It was later expanded to the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific (NCWNP) District under Patty Wada, Regional Director, and the Pacific Northwest (PNW) District under Karen Yoshitomi, Regional Director. The program teaches about the constitution and includes a visit to a camp site. Alexandra Margolin, Program Associate for Education and Interpretation Programs, who works out of the PSW office, coordinates the program and is working with Jean Shiraki of the JACL staff since the departure of Craig Ishii. Working with the regional directors on the program in the districts are: Jessica Kyo (NCWNP), Mackenzie Walker (PNW), and Yuka Ogino (PSW).
Below is a link to a story, written by Stephanie Rice who visited and observed the Bridging Communities program in San Francisco. http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/program-examines-japanese-and-muslim-wartime-experiences-10481. A story by Jody Godoy appeared in the Japan Times on May 11, 2011, and can be accessed by going to http://www.japantimes.co.jp and doing a search for Youth Empowered Through History. [These links currently work but could be taken down.] Also check the Pacific Citizen newspaper.
The names of awardees for the NPS grants for 2011 have been released. Although the National JACL submitted an application for this year, unfortunately, we did not receive a grant. This was a huge disappointment given the success of the Bridging Communities Program and the JACL’s extensive work in this area. Some JACL members who are aware of the Bridging Communities Program have previously insisted that this program must continue. We are sorry when it becomes necessary to cut any youth programs, but funding is the determining factor. We are currently trying to secure other funding, but these programs cannot continue if funds are not available.
Since it has come to my attention that there are a lot of questions regarding the National JACL programs and finances as well as concern over the Pacific Southwest (PSW) District office, I will try to respond in this report.
While the many volunteers are appreciated, the JACL cannot function without dedicated staff members who work hard for the benefit of the organization. The National Board is to be commended for their support in maintaining the level of staffing that we do have. I know that difficult decisions are ahead, and I trust the Board will promote a fair and equitable distribution of funds to continue an effective advocacy program and support the shift towards our focus on youth. There are always important issues of civil rights which need our attention.
People have asked about the reasons for Craig Ishii, PSW Regional Director, and other staff in the PSW office leaving their positions at the JACL. Personnel matters are confidential, but I can say that it was Craig’s personal decision to resign. Craig has been one of our most valued staff members, and the timing of his resignation was unexpected although he had indicated previously that his tenure with the JACL would be for a limited time. There was certainly no request from myself as his supervisor for him to step down. In fact, it was just the opposite. We were sorry to see him leave his post. His reasons are personal and for him to disclose if he chooses. Other PSW staff members chose to leave on their own as well.
Incidentally, the PSW office has moved into office space with the Pacific Citizen as mandated at the last National Council. It is our intent to fill the position of PSW Regional Director when possible. The financial situation for the National JACL is extremely difficult at this time as membership revenues have declined more than anticipated. Because of budgetary problems, several key positions within the National JACL have remained vacant, including the Director of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. Shrinking discretionary funds have increased the work load of each staff person. Regional Directors are required to handle national programs that were previously assigned to staff positions which are vacant. Fellows and Interns whose stipends are funded by corporate sponsors have been valuable assistants in the work. Staff has been exemplary in taking on extra work to allow us to accept funding that is specific to a program.
There have been questions about continuing youth programs in PSW. These programs have been largely funded through various grants that have been obtained through our work at National JACL. As long as grants for the projects are available, the programs can continue. If successful programs are cut, there is a problem with funding. The regular JACL revenues will not provide for these new programs. A high priority is to keep programs running, particularly those that involve our youth because we know that young people are very important to the future of the organization. There is a lot of work required to be done by staff to secure funding and run the programs.
It is true that there is a shortfall in our budget. We have been trying to remedy the budget deficit problems by cutting spending and increasing revenues. Because a major reason for this is the decline in membership revenues, I feel we need to be more aggressive in our membership program and to even revise the structure of our memberships to broaden the reach of the JACL in order to provide a sufficient level of funding. It is important for districts and chapters to become more involved in trying to get new members as our long time members are aging. It is also essential for chapters to engage youth members since this group lapses at a very high rate with many seemingly joining only to apply for the scholarships without developing a commitment to the JACL which could be possible with chapter involvement.
We continue to solicit funds from outside of the JACL in terms of corporate partnerships, foundations, and government grants. This has become increasingly difficult as funds are tight in this down economy. Donations from members of the JACL in our fundraising campaigns are down as well. We have developed a President’s Council of major donors, and I have suggested having at large National Board members who would help with fundraising.
It has been necessary to borrow some funds from the JACL National Endowment Fund. Although it is not a requirement to repay that money, the National Board has voted to require a repayment of the money with interest. This places a hardship on staff. A lot of time is spent trying to raise funds with the availability and amounts being uncertain.
A large portion of the JACL budget continues to be for the Pacific Citizen (PC) newspaper. Printing and mailing costs are high, and the PC is already providing an electronic version. Most newspapers are online, and many papers have folded because of the costs of printing and postage. The JACL must make some decisions regarding the paper. The current JACL revenues simply will not sustain such costly expenditures for a printed newspaper. A former PC Editorial Board Chair stated that the PC needs to go to only electronic but not yet. With the budgetary problems facing us and declining membership causing discretionary funds to dwindle, solutions must come soon. The PC does some fundraising, but the spending from the JACL budget on the PC per member has increased.
The National JACL Convention is just around the corner. Thanks to Gary Mayeda, Sonja Kuki, Karen Yoshitomi, Kerry Kaneichi, the PSW District and Chapters, the Convention Committee, JACL staff, Delegates, Sponsors, Exhibitors, Speakers, Awardees, Guests, Boosters, and to everyone who will volunteer and participate in any way at the Convention. We are very grateful for your efforts and support.
The JACL faces many challenges. However, the organization can flourish with the help of its members.
Life continues to be extremely busy for the JACL staff with lots of issues and activities with which to be involved. The D.C. Digest was started to inform our members and others of the concerns and various happenings around the nation’s capital and within the JACL. Anyone who does not receive the Digest is welcome to request the weekly email by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org with “sign up” in the subject line.
The film 442, Live With Honor, Die With Dignity, which chronicles the experiences of the brave Japanese American soldiers of the World War II era, is highly recommended viewing. I was invited by Donna Fujimoto Cole and the Houston JACL Chapter to introduce the film and do a Q&A at a showing in Houston last month. It was an honor to do so and to have the opportunity to meet with JACL members in the area.
The JACL was pleased at the announcement by Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal of the misconduct of his predecessor Charles Fahy when he hid a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence which concluded that the Japanese Americans did not pose a military threat and that there was no evidence that they were disloyal. We have known for years that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was unjustified, but the further validation is welcome. This was reported in a JACL press release and various news articles.
Comcast has been one of the JACL’s corporate sponsors for several years. Comcast has now merged with NBC/Universal and has committed itself to diversity. They have created an Asian American Advisory Council of which I was asked to be a member. Meetings were recently held at their headquarters in Philadelphia.
After the meetings with Comcast, my wife and I attended the Eastern District Council (EDC) meeting in New Jersey at which Toshi Abe, EDC governor, presided. The meeting was held at Medford Leas, which is a community for senior residents. Since it is now the home of Hiro and Grayce Uyehara, who were long time JACL leaders who worked on the passage of redress, I was able to visit them along with their son Paul Uyehara and grandson Kaz Uyehara, who were at the EDC meeting. A photo of Grayce was placed on Facebook (with Paul’s permission).
John Fuyuume, a long time resident of Seabrook, New Jersey, who now lives in Philadelphia, was at the EDC meeting representing the Seabrook Chapter because their co-presidents, Sharon Yoshida and Lenore Wurtzel, were busy preparing for the chapter’s annual Keirokai. The event which honors people 65 and older was being held later that day. Since we had no plans for the evening, John made arrangements for us to attend. The Seabrook Chapter has been holding this event for over 60 years and has photos of attendees at the Keirokai going back to the 1940’s.
The Memorial Day weekend was spent with the JACL National Youth/Student Council in New Orleans in conjunction with the new JACL chapter being formed there. This Youth Summit was sponsored by State Farm and Southwest Airlines. The young people were instructed by Darcy Taniguchi on environmental affairs and hosted for dinner by Father Vien Nguyen (who will be receiving an award at the JACL convention). The youth also participated in a service project of planting marsh grass in deep mud and getting extremely dirty. They had fun with a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” which was a memorable experience for them. Special thanks to Matthew Farrells, Devin Yoshikawa, Leslie Toy, and Jean Shiraki along with all the participants.
Thanks again to all those who have donated to the victims of the Japan disasters through the JACL/Direct Relief International effort. Many individuals and chapters have made a big impact in supporting this program.
The National JACL staff is busily working on your behalf. Phillip Ozaki works hard on membership and Clyde Izumi on finances. The Regional Directors have major assignments besides helping with and being involved with the affairs of their chapters and districts. Bill Yoshino, of the Midwest District, has the responsibility for working on hate crimes and other civil rights issues. Karen Yoshitomi, Pacific Northwest District, is our staff person over the national conventions. Patty Wada, Northern California Western Nevada Pacific District, is over the scholarship program. This is in addition to their many other responsibilities. They and the other staff members are dedicated professionals of whom you can be proud.
In addition to their regular duties, all members of the staff are diligently working on the convention. Hope to see you at the convention in Hollywood. Thanks for your support of the JACL.
The Seabrook Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) continues its rich heritage by holding an annual Keirokai event, which they have been doing for over sixty years. The dinner is held to honor the Japanese Americans in the area who are 65 years and older. The oldest male at this year’s event was Mr. Hank Furushima, and the oldest female was Mrs. Mitsuko Omura. They take a group photo of the attendees each year and have photos going back to the late 1940’s.
Seabrook is a small town in a farming district of southern New Jersey. Near the end of World War II, Charles F. Seabrook and his sons ran a frozen food business with 20,000 acres under cultivation, and they faced a labor shortage because of the war. To find workers, they recruited people from the camps along with other displaced persons to become crop pickers and workers for their food processing plants. In 1944 and 1945, about 2,500 people of Japanese descend had migrated to Seabrook.
The Japanese Americans in Seabrook adapted well to the surrounding culture and area while maintaining their traditions and heritage. A museum begun by Japanese American residents in 1994, the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, helps preserve their identity and provides a platform for telling the Japanese American story. The museum is staffed by volunteers and has been directed by John Fuyuume, who grew up in Pasadena, California, where his parents grew vegetables and owned a family grocery store. His family was incarcerated in 1942 at Gila River, Arizona, where they stayed until relocating to Seabrook in 1944.
Fuyuume with his wife Setsuko, whose family also lived in Seabrook, moved to Philadelphia from Seabrook a few years ago to a retirement area where they joined Setsuko’s sisters and brother in law, Eiko and Bunji Ikeda, Chizujo Sakata, and Miyoko Wong. They all attended the Keirokai event.
Floyd Mori, National Executive Director of the JACL, and his wife Irene were attending a JACL Eastern District Council meeting at Medford Leas, New Jersey, when John Fuyuume, who is a former Seabrook Chapter President, mentioned that the Seabrook Chapter would hold their Keirokai later that day. Fuyuume was representing Seabrook Chapter since the chapter co-presidents, Sharon Yoshida and Lenore Wurtzel, were busy preparing for the event of which Linda Ono was chair. Floyd and Irene Mori attended the Keirokai where they talked with former residents of the Poston, Gila River, and Topaz camps who had made those homes in Seabrook after the war.
The Keirokai is held at the Seabrook Buddhist Temple, which was founded in 1945. Entertainment was provided by the Minyo (folk) Dancers and the Hoh Daiko Drummers taiko group. The Minyo dance group began in 1975 under the direction of Sunkie Oye. They were formed as part of a cultural presentation by members of the Seabrook Japanese American community at the 1975 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. The taiko group in Seabrook began in 1991.
Door prizes and favors were provided by the Seabrook JACL chapter board and members as well as local merchants. All the attendees received gifts and had a good time, ending the event with Bingo.
This spring has ushered in another busy time for the JACL. There continues to be a flurry of programs, appointments, meetings, events, and issues with which to be involved. There is much work to be done.
A National JACL staff meeting and a board meeting were held in April, at which times I announced my plans to retire from the position of National Executive Director of the JACL effective before the end of the year. Upon becoming Director of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. in 2005, my intent was to stay for two years. With the subsequent appointment to succeed John Tateishi, I have been shuttling between the nation’s capital and the JACL headquarters. After only a short time in Washington, I could see that it is extremely valuable and important for our organization to have a visible and active presence in the nation’s capital (which I had expressed to John Tateishi at the time). Incidentally, Mike Masaoka recommended some fifty years ago that the JACL move its headquarters to Washington, D.C. [documented in the Pacific Citizen newspaper].
Your committed JACL staff is working hard to serve the organization and the community. We were sorry that Craig Ishii, PSW Regional Director, left the post at the end of April and wish him well in his future endeavors.
At the National Board meeting, it was discussed that members want more information about what the National JACL is doing. The JACL Washington, D.C. office issues a weekly email called the D.C. Digest to inform members and other interested persons about legislation and concerns of importance to the JACL as well as about the work and activities of the JACL staff. Notices have previously been put out about the Digest, and anyone is welcome to sign up to receive the Digest by sending an email (with “sign up” in the subject line) to email@example.com. JACL press releases are issued regularly and are placed on the JACL website. Action alerts are also sent out.
There was a slight increase in membership numbers in the first quarter of 2011, which is good news since our membership rates have been seriously declining for years. Phillip Ozaki, Membership Coordinator, and David Lin, Vice President of Membership, are to be commended for their efforts in working with chapter leaders on membership issues. Of course, we express gratitude to the chapters for their work, as personal contact is the most effective way to sign up new members and encourage members to renew. Continued work is especially needed among the college-age JACLers who comprise the largest group of new members but who lapse at a very high rate. Chapters can play a vital role in helping these youth/student members learn about the JACL and become committed to the organization by being active in chapters. This group will comprise our future leaders.
A few non-functioning chapters have been dissolved with members being absorbed into other chapters. We hope those people are warmly welcomed by their new chapters. After the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, the JACL was instrumental in obtaining help for Asian Americans who were impacted there. A lot of these were Vietnamese people in the fishing industry, and they became the first community to recover after Katrina. A diverse new JACL chapter is being organized, which is the API Gulf Coast Chapter located in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Two of their members are Father Vien Nguyen, who will receive an award at the JACL Convention, and Ayame Nagatani, a former president of the Washington, D.C. JACL Chapter who was on the staff of Congressman Mike Honda and currently works for the Mayor of New Orleans. We are happy to welcome this new chapter.
The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. held special significance this year with Jean Shiraki of the JACL D.C. office as the Cherry Blossom Princess for Hawaii. Conferences, Galas, and White House Briefings have been held with the JACL in attendance. In late April, I was able to meet with potential funders in Las Vegas and to attend the Nihon Matsuri (Japan Festival) in Salt Lake City. This was a chance to meet with old friends as well as to see the JACL in action by showcasing and preserving our heritage among the larger community with the three Utah JACL chapters participating. Although the festival is relatively new in Utah, there are similar events held throughout the country in which chapters of the JACL play an integral part.
Thanks for the continuing support of the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund with the JACL and Direct Relief International to help victims of the devastation in Japan. I am grateful to everyone involved with the JACL and have enjoyed working with many of you. Hope you can make it to the National JACL Convention in July.
Dear Chapter Presidents:
Thank you for the work you are doing in the JACL. The organization could not function effectively without dedicated volunteers at the chapter level. The service you and your chapter boards are performing is very important and valuable. Chapters play a vital role in all aspects of the JACL, particularly social and cultural.
The JACL National Board meeting was held this month in San Francisco. You should be receiving notice from your district governors about the issues which were discussed, but I wanted to mention a few items.
Some non-active chapters have recently been dissolved, but we are happy to welcome a new chapter which is being organized. It is the API Gulf Coast Chapter, a diverse chapter in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
As you know, the declining membership of the JACL has been a serious problem for years. In order for the JACL to thrive, it is imperative to gain more members, particularly younger people who will carry the organization into the future. Phillip Ozaki, JACL membership coordinator, reported that there was a slight membership increase last quarter. This was likely due to a membership webinar held for chapters, a direct mailing campaign to lapsed members, and personal contact by chapter leaders and members. All districts showed an increase, but we are losing many members each month. Besides the aging of our long time members, a big problem is not retaining youth/student members who may sign up to apply for scholarships but who are not renewing. These young people need to be engaged in chapters so that they will become involved in the JACL and want to keep their membership active. You may want to suggest that your college students apply for the JACL Collegiate Leadership Conference which is coming up soon. We appreciate the work your chapters are doing to build membership in the JACL.
The membership survey which was conducted indicated that members would like more communication with the National JACL. The D.C. Digest put out by the JACL Washington, D.C. office is a weekly email which lets interested persons know what the JACL is doing on the national level, including government happenings. Your chapter members are welcome to get on the mailing list for the D.C. Digest and the action alerts to receive JACL notices and press releases. They may send an email [with “sign up” in the subject line] to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting to be placed on the email list. The JACL press releases are also placed on the website at www.jacl.org. Check out the website regularly for information on all facets of the JACL. Chapters could include information from the D.C. Digest and press releases in chapter newsletters to inform their members of what the National JACL is doing. If you are not receiving the D.C. Digest and JACL emails and would like them, please sign up.
Just as individuals are suffering during these difficult economic times, the JACL is also having financial challenges. We are grateful to our corporate partners, JACL donors, and chapters which have donated back their rebates to National. For those wanting to do so, it is advised that chapters cash the checks and write a check back to the JACL for the donation. Thank you also for the support of the JACL’s Japan Relief and Recovery Fund with Direct Relief International to help victims of the disaster in Japan. The Japan Chapter has helped to facilitate this effort.
We would like to encourage you to have your delegates register for the National Convention as soon as possible. This is a great opportunity to interact with other JACL leaders and members. Boosters are more than welcome.
The National JACL has a committed staff which is working hard to serve all members of the JACL. We want to express appreciation and best wishes to Craig Ishii, PSW Regional Director, who is leaving the post.
For those who may not be aware, I announced at the board meeting that I will be retiring from the position of National Executive Director before the end of the year. It has been almost six years since I joined the staff of the JACL. I have enjoyed the work and have appreciated all those with whom I have been able to associate during that period of time. It has been a rewarding experience.
The JACL continues to have relevance in today’s world. Thanks for helping to make a difference by serving.
While preparing to leave for the airport for a trip from Washington, D.C. to California early in the morning on March 11, I heard the horrible news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As some of my immediate family members reside in Tokyo, along with other family and friends living in Japan including members of the JACL Japan chapter, there was immediate cause for concern. Jean Shiraki, who works in the JACL Washington, D.C. office, had left on Thursday for a trip to Japan to visit relatives. Japan chapter president John Ino was actually traveling and was in San Francisco. Reid Tateoka, a JACL leader from Utah who was co-chair of the past National JACL Convention in Salt Lake City and the Resolutions Committee Chair for other National Conventions, is living in Sendai where he serves as a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most were heard from throughout the day and reported that they were okay. Many members of the JACL have family and friends living in Japan.
Huge problems will continue for Japan. The horror is hard to comprehend. Japan is to be commended for its preparation for disasters, but no one could be completely prepared for a catastrophe of this magnitude. We can be grateful that the loss was not much worse, but it was an unbelievable calamity for which we are all saddened. Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible disaster.
Friday was filled with phone calls from the staff and members of the JACL and other community leaders as well as communication with the White House, Japan Embassy, and others who were concerned and anxious to help. We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of care and support. I also participated on Friday in meetings held in San Jose by the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council (CJACLC) of which the JACL is a member organization.
On Saturday morning, representing the National JACL, I attended and gave brief remarks at the funeral for Mr. Surinder Singh, a Sikh gentleman who was fatally gunned down while taking a walk in a Sacramento suburb with his friend, Gurmej Atwal, who was also shot but survived. The men, who had moved to the United States from India, wore beards and turbans as they took their daily stroll in their neighborhood. They were likely targeted because of their appearance. Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims and have been victims of violence since the September 11 attacks. A candlelight vigil was held the night before at which over 600 people attended.
Other JACLers, including David Unruhe, JACL governor for the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific (NCWNP) district, attended the funeral as well. Our thanks to Andy Noguchi, Civil Rights Co-Chair, and Marielle Tsukamoto, President, of the Florin JACL Chapter for their leadership in offering support to the Sikh community at this difficult time. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The NCWNP district held a Bridging Communities event sponsored by a grant from the National Parks Service at the JACL Headquarters Building in San Francisco on Saturday under the direction of Patty Wada, JACL NCWNP Regional Director, and Jessica Kyo. This program has been successfully held in the Pacific Southwest District (PSW) under the direction of Craig Ishii, JACL PSW Regional Director. It is also being conducted in other areas. It brings together youth of the Japanese American community with youth of the Muslim American community to further understanding of each other’s culture and build leadership. It was good to meet these young people. Craig Ishii has also run a program for youth called Project Community, sponsored by AT&T. JACL leaders and parents are asked to encourage their youth to attend these worthwhile programs when they are available in your area.
Earlier in the week, the successful 2011 JACL/OCA DC Leadership Summit sponsored by State Farm was concluded in the nation’s capital. This year’s participants were: CCDC: Leslie Hamamoto and Jody Hironaka-Juteau; EDC: Mari Masuko and Kazuo Uyehara; IDC: Jinny Kim and Jennifer Ungvichian: MDC: Michio Murakishi; NCWNP: Alan Teruya and Devin Yoshikawa; PNW: Mariko Newton, Linda Tanaka, and Mackenzie Walker; PSW: Kathryn Hirayanagi. Additionally, Harry Budisidharta, who is the JACL Mile Hi chapter president in Denver, attended as an OCA representative. As JACL and OCA are partner organizations, participants were encouraged to join both organizations. Six OCA members immediately signed up for the JACL. George Wu, executive director of OCA, is a member of the JACL, and I am a member of OCA. Some of our JACL board members are also OCA members.
On Thursday, March 10, 2011, a controversial congressional hearing was held on the “radicalization” of Muslims in the United States. Rep. Peter King of New York, in opening the hearing before a packed room on Capitol Hill, stated: "I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward, and they will … to protect America from a terrorist attack.”
The JACL and others in the civil rights community are concerned that these hearings will bring focus unfairly to the thousands of innocent Muslim Americans and others who are law abiding members of society but who may be looked upon as terrorists. There are similarities to the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II when many community leaders were immediately imprisoned following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All people of Japanese ancestry were regarded as enemies with over 110,000 being incarcerated at internment camps in desolate areas simply because of their physical appearance and heritage. To represent the Japanese American community and the JACL, I was interviewed by CNN International, NHK, the Washington Post, and other media sources regarding the hearing and the Japanese American experience.
The JACL continues to have relevance as it did in the past. However, the organization is having difficult problems caused largely by our declining membership. If you are reading this, you are one of the most interested members of the JACL. If you could personally secure a new member for the JACL or are in a position to gift a membership or make a donation, it would be very helpful. Thanks for your support of the JACL.
It has been quite a week. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.
Many of our JACL chapters recently held Day of Remembrance (DOR) events to commemorate the signing of Executive Order (EO) 9066 and the Rescinding of EO 9066 which happened on February 19 many years apart. It was a dark day in history when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed EO 9066 in 1942, which gave the military commander the authority to remove people from their west coast homes. The order was used only on those of Japanese ancestry and affected more than 120,000 people.
During the late 1970’s I was able to introduce a Resolution in the California State Assembly which paved the way for the first Day of Remembrance events held in California. It was a privilege to be in the Oval Office when President Gerald R. Ford rescinded EO 9066 in 1976. In the mid 1980’s a small gathering was held in a home, which I believe was the first DOR event held in Utah. It was a happy occasion when President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
In spite of its humble beginnings, the DOR events held by JACL chapters everywhere have become major JACL events. These various activities throughout the nation are good reminders to the public that this travesty of justice occurred to United States citizens and should never be allowed to happen again. We must not forget our history, and others need to be reminded of it.
Since my schedule was to be in California during February, I was able to accept invitations to attend the DOR events at Merced on February 19 and in Fresno on February 20, along with David Kawamoto and Larry Oda, National JACL President and Secretary/Treasurer respectively. Gail Sueki, Vice President of General Operations, also attended the event in Merced, which was the one year anniversary of the monument erected at the Merced Fairgrounds to commemorate the assembly center in which internees were temporarily housed in 1942. Jason Chung, Vice President of Planning and Development, was at the Fresno event in his home area. Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata and Congressman Bob Costa were also present. Bob Taniguchi and Judge Dale Ikeda, along with many others, were instrumental in erecting impressive monuments and presenting good programs.
Last year I was asked to speak at the DOR event held by the three Utah JACL chapters which honored two old friends, Wat Misaka and Judge Raymond Uno. Wat, who received a Weber State University Recognition with a scholarship established in his honor, was the first non-white player in what is now the NBA. He was a leading college basketball player at Weber and the University of Utah before being drafted in 1947 by the New York Knicks. Ray, who received the 2010 Human Rights and Social Justice Award, has long been a champion of civil rights in Utah as well as the first Asian American judge in the state. He has also served as a National JACL President.
Special DOR events are held throughout the nation. The Washington, D.C. JACL Chapter celebrates DOR in conjunction with the Smithsonian. This year they held a screening of the film, 442, which is a depiction of the experiences of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Battalion which served so honorably during World War II. We owe much to these brave Japanese American soldiers who showed the world the patriotism and loyalty of the Japanese Americans.
Everyone who has helped to organize and present the JACL DOR events is to be commended. Thanks also to all who attended, and thank you for your support of the JACL.
Thank you to all those who contributed to the JACL during the recent year-end giving program. We are very grateful for your support.
Although corporate funds have been secured in recent years and have been beneficial to help run the JACL’s various programs, it remains a fact that the JACL is a membership driven organization. The major monies for the operations of the organization are still derived from the membership dues.
The National JACL is operating with some key positions remaining unfilled because of budgetary concerns. This makes increased work for the JACL staff, who should be commended for the good work they do with limited resources.
It is no secret that the JACL membership has been decreasing due to our members aging and passing on without enough younger people to replace those who leave us. Now, as we go forward, we must do our part as JACL members to build our membership base. We have been focusing on reaching out to young potential members. Craig Ishii, regional director in PSW, has been running some very effective programs for young people, Project Community and Bridging Communities. Bill Yoshino, regional director in the Midwest, is running successful leadership conferences and workshops for college students. Karen Yoshitomi and Patty Wada , regional directors, work on youth programs in their areas as well.
The Japanese American (JA) population has been in the United States for generations and has assimilated very well. Many of the younger members of our JA community do not see a need for the JACL. Additionally, there are many JA nonprofits, community organizations, and churches to which people belong. We need to show others the value of the JACL.
One way to increase our membership numbers is to include other communities which could benefit from being under the umbrella of a national organization to assist them in advocacy and issues important to them. We can do a better job of inviting others to join the JACL. New chapters which include other Asian American groups may also be formed.
Phillip Ozaki, Membership Coordinator at the JACL Headquarters in San Francisco, and David Lin, Vice President of Membership on the JACL National Board, have been working on lapsed members and are trying to come up with new ideas to increase our membership rolls. Please support them as they present programs to the districts and chapters.
The JACL depends on its members, and we thank you who have been stalwart members over the years. The JACL could not have continued without you. We are also grateful to our newer members who have joined. Anything any of you could do to encourage friends and family members to join the JACL would be greatly appreciated and beneficial to the organization.
In order to understand the needs of the future, we must take a glimpse into the immediate past. The JACL has been a dynamic organization with changing demographics and changing societal values that have impacted who we are and why we exist. Our tradition as the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the country continues to manifest itself within this changing environment. We who are engaged from day to day often fail to recognize the small changes that take place from year to year. Considering the past two decades, is it necessary to retool our mission statement into a broader more inclusive community based structure?
Of course, there are trends that have become apparent such as the falling membership numbers which we have not been able to reverse over the past decade. We know that the membership is getting younger, but, as we know, “younger” is a relative term and “how young” is still not certain. Fiscal pressures seem to follow the trends in the economy and with the recent economic woes of the nation, the JACL has followed with its own fiscal challenges.
Membership will continue to be central to our effectiveness as a ‘grassroots’ organization. While membership continues to be the main source of revenue, its share of total revenue will diminish, requiring us to enhance the “program” element of what we do. We must redefine the meaning of JACL membership. Our programs have largely centered on youth and leadership, and this will continue. However, we will also be required to collaborate more closely with other groups in order to be considered as a funding possibility for corporate and foundation donors. We must also enhance our capacity to handle government funding opportunities. The reality of our relative size in the overall universe of those seeking funding for programs will have to be overcome with innovative programs that involve a cross cultural blend of activities. In order to be in a position for funding, programs in workforce development, environmental justice/green jobs, and dealing with the issues of aging are program directions that we need to develop.
It will be important for the JACL to look at staff structure and function as we move toward more professionally driven programs to involve and benefit our membership. In order to compete in the non-profit world, there also will need to be a restructuring of the National Board to draw more broadly for skills needed to operate and fund a non-profit of the 21st Century. The traditions of the JACL are an imbedded element that gives us purpose and meaning. However, we have to look at the operational requirements that will create a successful future rather than maintaining a status quo which has relied too heavily on tradition without maximizing the opportunities in a new generation. This future must include a major broadband element that involves the membership and public, communicates, and innovates.
I am optimistic about the future of the JACL. We have made too much progress this past decade to allow any regression. Yes, we can and, of course. we will move ahead.
One of the privileges of being the National Director of the JACL is the opportunity to attend various events of the JACL and different organizations where outstanding people are honored. Their stories are motivating and inspirational. AARP held their annual dinner recently at which they presented awards to “People Who Inspire” with honorees from the over fifty crowd.
The Andrus Award was presented to Dr. Maya Angelou, who has described herself as a black woman who is six feet tall and a poet. She has also been an author, playwright, and civil rights activist. At age 82, she stated that she might be the oldest person in attendance. Her childhood in Missouri was marred by abuse and violence which caused her to not speak for six years. She was then sent to live with her grandmother who predicted that the young girl would someday teach around the world, which she later did. Ms. Angelou stated that courage is the most important of all the virtues and said that we should “do not well but do good” in this world.
Others who received awards were Joy Behar and her daughter Eve Behar Scotti, who are working for women’s heart health; Sandy Chen Stokes, who founded the Chinese American Coalition for Compassionate Care; Tony Danza, actor who promotes education; Helene Gayle, M.D., head of the humanitarian organization CARE which is working to fight global poverty; Pedro Jose Greer Jr., M.D., who opened the Camillus Health Concern, a medical clinic for Miami’s homeless; Lisa Niemi Swayze, a spokesperson for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network after her husband actor Patrick Swayze died from the disease; Elizabeth Warren, head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; and Henry Winkler, actor who helps stroke victims and is the spokesperson for Open Arms.
The AARP event was held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. On the wall was something quoted from President Reagan which read: “There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.”
As we reflect on people who inspire, we could quickly name dozens of such people within the JACL and the larger Japanese American community who have done exemplary acts of service to help relieve the suffering of others. The JACL has been privileged to honor many of these people, but there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of other such people who do untold service everyday without receiving thanks or recognition. We salute all the people who are going the extra mile to help their fellowmen and make this a better world.
The JACL has many people, particularly our National JACL Staff and Board along with local leaders, who are working for the betterment of our own organization and others. At this holiday season, we thank everyone for the quiet acts of service which you are performing everyday. May you have a happy and wonderful year in 2011.
This week I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, that was presented by Walmart for participants from the various minority communities. It was titled as the “Stakeholder Summit.” I have to admit that I learned a great deal and concluded that Walmart is in a genuine process of looking outward towards the customers and the communities in which they reside. This is a marked change from the attitude of turning their backs on their critics and doing business as they only knew how to do. They have discovered that in dealing in a national and global marketplace there are more considerations than having to deal with a homogenous rural marketplace.
As Walmart has moved into more urban and suburban communities, diversity and cultural sensitivity have become more of an issue. While they have been criticized in the past for low wages and few benefits, the growth of their labor force, which numbers some 1.4 million associates in the United States alone, has motivated the company to become more competitive in workers benefits. Today, they indicate that their employees have an average wage above the minimum and in many cases higher than union wages. We were also informed that all of their employees, both full time and part time, have health benefits. The rumor mill has them paying subsistence wages.
While I found that there were holes in their presentation regarding the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I would say that there is genuine intent in addressing the overall issue of giving more balanced marketing and employment effort towards a more diverse company. AAPIs were lacking in employment numbers and few could be found in higher levels of management in the company. The fact that many urban and suburban areas have an increasing proportion of AAPI population seems to have not been addressed. Marketing materials lacked AAPI faces but did display African American and Hispanic people.
Now, why do I even mention this monumental change in business strategy by this company with obvious rural roots. While some of the initial values of the rural farming culture have been maintained, they have discovered new opportunities to expand their influence into the urban and suburban culture. This means a necessity to become more diverse. Their global thrust amplified their need to become more culturally sensitive. There are many familiar retail names that have fallen by the wayside because they have not been able to adjust to changing markets, names like Woolworth, Kress, and Montgomery Ward.
I mention this because the JACL can be a Walmart but could also be a Woolworth. While we can retain some core values, we have to look at the diversity within the community which we serve. We have to reorganize, retool, and retrofit the old in order to survive in this new millennium. We have begun the process of bringing in new ideas and strategies. We need a Stakeholders Summit that builds upon what we have that is good, but eliminates that which has been holding us back. Our vision has to be forward and we need to bring in leaders who are not afraid to implement what may seem to be radical new ideas. We have a lot in our heritage of which we can be proud, but success is in how we handle the shift into the future.
As the National JACL scholarship recipients for this school year have been announced, we would like to congratulate these exemplary young people who received scholarships to assist them in furthering their education. The scholarship program has been a significant part of the JACL for many years. The JACL is privileged to make this financial investment in young people, thanks to the many generous donors. Thanks also to David and Carol Kawamoto and all others who helped administer the scholarship program.
About ten years ago, the JACL began to require scholarship applicants to be members of the JACL. It is anticipated that by having a JACL membership, these students will learn about the organization and will become involved with the JACL in their local areas. Past participation in the JACL is considered in selecting the scholarship recipients which makes it a good idea to get involved at an early age.
The cost of a student/youth membership at $25 is a good investment for the chance to receive a scholarship award of $1,000 to $5,000. Students may be awarded more than one National JACL scholarship during their college years.
Of course, this is not the only reason to join the JACL, and we hope all youth and students will want to become members. The young people who serve the JACL National Youth/Student Council and youth members of the various chapters are to be commended for their service to the organization.
It is a fact that a large percentage of the JACL membership is now older in age. It is absolutely essential to the future of the JACL that we do a better job of bringing in more young people and retaining our student/youth members. We would like to encourage all National JACL scholarship winners and applicants to remain active members of the JACL throughout their lives.
The JACL has found it difficult in the past to entice our younger generation in great numbers to become members of the JACL or to keep their memberships active. Having youth members and members with young families builds the organization. The National JACL Convention held in Chicago last July saw several families with small children and babies in attendance. We appreciate the participation of young professionals and those who are involving their families in the JACL.
JACL fellowships and programs have been sponsored by State Farm, Eli Lilly, Ford Motor, Southern California Edison, UPS, AT&T, and Nissan. Southwest Airlines has become a partner of the JACL and is providing airline tickets for some of the youth events. Student/youth members are invited to avail themselves of the JACL fellowships and programs. Check out the JACL website at www.jacl.org or call any of the JACL offices for more information.
Chapter and district leaders need to strengthen their outreach to Asian American youth in their neighborhoods to encourage them to become members of the JACL at a young age. The scholarship program is a good selling point.
Although it may be difficult when students move away from their local chapters, it is important to keep track of the scholarship applicants and recipients to keep them involved in the chapters either at their home or their college area. Chapters in areas where colleges and universities are located should welcome the participation of students, and students are encouraged to stay involved with the JACL wherever they are attending school if possible.
The older generation which has been the backbone of the JACL for many years is appreciated for their dedication to the JACL. The young people are vital as they will be the future leaders of the JACL.
When I became heavily involved in the workings of nonprofit organizations and government by beginning work for the JACL in Washington, D.C. five years ago, I saw that there were reasons to make changes in the JACL. After I became National Director, I proposed modifications whereby we would become “The New JACL.” We have since added several programs, and there have been changes made.
One of the suggestions I proposed which met with opposition was to change the name from the Japanese American Citizens League to something which would be more all inclusive. It should help us better reach out to other communities and make more people feel welcome in our ranks. Membership should be encouraged to anyone who shares our views and interests. The JACL membership numbers have been dwindling or rapidly decreasing for years. Something needs to be done.
Although there are a great many potential JACL members among Japanese Americans, many have never heard of the JACL or are not interested in joining. It has not been easy to convince large numbers of the children and grandchildren of former JACL leaders to join. By the same token, our new younger members have difficulty trying to interest their parents in becoming members. If a fraction of the potential members would join the JACL, we could easily quadruple our membership rolls. Since it has been almost impossible to significantly increase membership through trying to appeal mainly to Japanese Americans, it could be beneficial to reach out more aggressively to those who are not of our same background. A number of our strong JACL leaders are not Japanese Americans.
Leaders within the Asian American community have been attempting to be of assistance to the Vietnamese and other Asian Americans who were adversely affected by Katrina and now by the BP oil spill. We find that these newer immigrants are facing many of the same trials and challenges which the early Japanese immigrants faced eighty or ninety years ago. The reason that the JACL was organized in 1929 was to fight the discrimination and racism the Japanese Americans and their parents had to endure on a daily basis. These groups of newer immigrants could benefit by joining our organization. They are in need of advocacy, support, and even a way to obtain health insurance, which the JACL should be able to provide.
The tragic events of 9/11 which happened nine years ago have resulted in various attacks, both physical and verbal, against Muslims and Arab Americans. This treatment continues and shows that racism and prejudice continue toward people who look different from what some consider the mainstream. Our physical characteristics, as Japanese Americans and Asian Americans, cause many people to look at us as perpetual foreigners. Recent European immigrants who may not speak the English language are regularly looked upon as being more American than Japanese Americans whose families have been in the United States for generations.
This was brought home to the JACL recently as we were asking for a member of a United States Senator’s staff to represent the senator. The staff member who contacted the JACL office seemed pleased that they were able to send the legislative assistant in charge of foreign affairs to attend, as if they thought that was most appropriate for our organization.
The JACL has been around for over eighty years. Many of our parents and grandparents came to this country more than a hundred years ago. The JACL has had its own headquarters building in San Francisco since the 1970’s. Our greatest membership base is in the state of California, and we have chapters scattered throughout the country. Yet because of our name, Japanese American Citizens League, and perhaps the way we look, people still assume that we are more foreign than American.
There has been some strong opposition to changing the JACL’s name, and most want to keep the acronym of JACL. We can still be known as the JACL, but it may be time to let the letters stand for something else. While it was anticipated that we would at least try to keep something referring to “Asian American” in the name, that is not necessary. It might be wise to change the JACL meaning to Joint American Citizens League or possibly something using the word Justice. There are options which would need to be discussed and reviewed before a change would be implemented. It then may be necessary to explain that the JACL was formerly known as the Japanese American Citizens League. That would be okay.
Although we are and will remain interested in our heritage, we are, after all, Americans first and foremost.
The exhibit, “Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts,” which honors Japanese American soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the Military Intelligence and Language Services, and the Japanese American women in the Women’s Army Corps who served valiantly during World War II at a time when they were looked upon as the enemy, is open to the public at Ellis Island. Eric Saul, noted historian who has done extensive work in telling the Japanese American experience, is the curator of the exhibit. He has dedicated the exhibit to Mike Masaoka.
It is a well known fact that life was not easy for the early immigrants from Japan. They were hard working and enterprising, yet they found limited success in this new country where they did not speak the language and the customs were unfamiliar. As the American born children of these Japanese immigrants became young adults and attended college, they still faced discrimination.
The JACL was formed in 1929 by the Nisei (second generation children of Japanese immigrants) to combat these negative influences and laws against them. Mike Masaoka was not one of the originators of the JACL, but he became an early leader of the organization. Mike was born in Fresno, California, on October 15, 1915. He was the fourth of eight children born to Issei, Japanese immigrant parents. When he was a few years old, his father moved the family to Salt Lake City, Utah. Mike attended West High School and the University of Utah where he was a champion debater.
After graduating from college in 1937, Mike became a leader in the JACL after organizing the Intermountain District Council of the JACL in Utah and Idaho. At the age of 25, Mike was named the National Secretary and Field Executive, which began a long history with the JACL.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, the Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans faced increased discrimination. Mike Masaoka was sent by the JACL to Washington, D.C. to work for the abolition of internment camps and mitigate the effects of relocation. He encouraged cooperation with the government. He worked for the reinstatement of Japanese Americans into the military. The result was the creation of a segregated unit of Japanese Americans which became the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Mike joined the unit which served with distinction in Italy and France during World War II.
After returning from military service, Mike became the JACL Washington representative and worked to reform immigration and naturalization laws. He later played a role in the proceedings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians from which The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 became law, which allowed for Redress. His JACL friends formed the JACL Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellowship in his honor.
Mike met his wife Etsu Mineta, when she was incarcerated with her family at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. They were married in 1943 before leaving for Washington, DC. Mike passed away in 1991 in Washington, DC after suffering with heart problems. He is survived by his wife Etsu and a granddaughter Michelle Amano of Maryland. Etsu will be one of the honorees at the JACL Gala in Washington, DC this year.
Mike Masaoka was probably the best known leader of the JACL. He worked hard for the JACL, but he was not without enemies and critics who did not agree with him. As most of the early leaders of the JACL have now left us, it behooves us to learn about them and the JACL history. The Japanese American story must be told and retold in order to guarantee the liberties which we enjoy today.
Now that the National Convention for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is over for this year, it is time to move on to our next major event. The National JACL Gala is scheduled for Thursday, September 16, 2010, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Proceeds from the event will go to the National JACL to help fund the important work that must continue.
This is the fourth year that the JACL Gala will be held in the nation’s capital. Five years ago after moving to Washington, D.C. to become the Director of Public Policy for the JACL when Kristine Minami left that position upon finishing law school, I began to attend a lot of Gala dinners for various organizations. It became clear to me that the JACL could use a Gala of its own in Washington, D.C. to bring visibility to the organization and to raise needed funds. John Tateishi, then National Executive Director of the JACL, agreed.
So we embarked on having the JACL host a Gala in the nation’s capital. It is a lot of work for the Washington, D.C. JACL staff which includes two recent college graduates who are the JACL Mineta Fellow and the JACL Inouye Fellow, a volunteer, and occasional interns. [The Director of Public Policy position remains vacant due to budgetary issues.] The JACL Gala has become one of our new traditions for the JACL which we hope will continue for a long time.
The Gala has been called “A Salute to Champions” and provides the opportunity to honor people who have made a difference. The honorees this year are outstanding women champions. They include Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has done much for the JACL and the Asian American community; Etsu Mineta Masaoka, a JACL stalwart who supported her husband Mike Masaoka and the JACL through many years; Roxanna Saberi, a journalist and writer from North Dakota who was captured and held in Iran; and Christine Toy Johnson, an actress and filmmaker who, with her husband Bruce Johnson, produced a documentary film about Wat Misaka, the Japanese American who was the first non-white person to play in what is now the National Basketball Association. The corporate partner to be honored this year for outstanding contributions to the JACL is Eli Lilly.
JACL members and friends are given several opportunities to support the JACL Gala. Of course, anyone who is able to attend the event will be most welcome. [JACL members may contact the Washington DC JACL office to receive a special JACL price if desired.] Individual tickets and Tables of Ten may be purchased to be filled by the purchaser or may be donated to be filled by the JACL which comps dignitaries and attempts to include as many hill staffers as possible. Sponsorships and donations at any level are appreciated. Ads (for as low as $50 for a one eighth page ad for JACL members) may be purchased for the program booklet. All documents for these purposes are available at the JACL website [www.jacl.org].
We hope you will consider supporting the National JACL Gala this year. We also encourage participation in the JACL Pacific Southwest District’s Annual Awards Dinner on October 9.
Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thanks to all who have supported the Gala in the past and thanks to everyone for all you do for the JACL.
Another Successful National JACL Convention Has Concluded
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) just concluded its 41st Biennial National Convention in Chicago. We are very grateful to Ron Yoshino, convention chair, and the Chicago JACL Chapter members with chapter president, Megan Nakano, for hosting this historic convention. This was the last of the JACL conventions on the biennial schedule. In keeping with the convention theme of “Embracing Change,” the JACL will go to an annual convention format starting with the next convention to be held in Los Angeles in 2011 with Gary Mayeda as the convention chair.
Convention events and proceedings will be available from the coverage of the Pacific Citizen staff, who were in attendance at the convention. Press releases put out by the JACL give additional information on events, awards, speakers, youth functions, and elections.
It takes many hours of planning and hard work from the convention committee as well as the JACL staff and board to put on a national convention. Bill Yoshino, JACL’s regional director in the Midwest office in Chicago, Christine Munteanu, the JACL Ford Fellow, and Jean Shiraki, the JACL Inouye Fellow, were heavily involved in the convention planning and execution as were Carol and Joyce Yoshino, and many others within the Chicago Chapter and all National JACL staff who had important duties. Karen Yoshitomi, JACL’s regional director in the Pacific Northwest Region, is the staff person who oversees the conventions. Sheldon Arakaki, the outgoing Vice President of General Operations, was the board member over the convention with Gail Sueki elected to that position. Many JACL members served as committee members and chairs. Thank you to all who helped to make the convention a success, including all delegates, participants, speakers, volunteers, entertainers, sponsors, exhibitors, boosters, and others. It was nice to see families with young children and babies in attendance. Thanks to the outgoing National Board and congratulations to the newly elected National Board (names are in other coverage and on the website).
The Youth/Student Council with outgoing chair and rep, Kimberly Shintaku and Brandon Mita, did a great job with the younger generation. They are being replaced by Matthew Farrells and Devin Yoshikawa. It was gratifying to see so many of this age group attend and participate in this convention. The Youth Luncheon and Oratorical Contest (of which Nicole Horiuchi Gaddie of Salt Lake City was the winner) were great indications of the future leadership of the JACL. These young people need to be cultivated within the chapters and districts to become the next leaders within this organization. They are the future of the JACL.
We owe a special debt of gratitude to our corporate partners and all who contributed financially to the convention. Among those are State Farm, AT&T, Ford Motor, Eli Lilly, the National JACL Credit Union, CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services), JACL Health Benefits Trust, Masuda Funai, Comcast, Paramount Pictures, Pierce Family, and Union Bank. Prizes for the Oratorical Contest were donated by All Nippon Airways (ANA), Hyatt Hotel (Tokyo), and Sony. Other cash donors were: Sheldon Arakaki, Shiro and Catherine Shiraga, Misao Shiratsuki, Ron and Joyce Yoshino, Jack Rubin and Pat Yuzawa-Rubin, Elaine Akagi, Lillian Kimura, Helen Kawagoe, and Hank Sakai. We are also grateful to all the exhibitors at the convention. (We apologize if this list is incomplete or inaccurate.)
This convention was not without controversy and debate. In the end, the National Council made their decisions and voted. The JACL staff will work to implement the resolutions and budget as passed.
It was a pleasure for me personally to have our daughter and two young granddaughters (members of the San Diego Chapter) join us by attending this JACL Convention. It is always good to see old timers like Etsu Masaoka, Shea Aoki, Harry Honda, and Frank Sakamoto, among others, in attendance. We appreciate the boosters who do not have to be there but who choose to attend the conventions.
I hope all attendees had a good time and learned a lot. If you did not make it to this convention, plan to attend in 2011 in Los Angeles for another great National JACL Convention. Thanks for your support of the JACL.
Pacific Citizen Newspaper
Letter to the Editor:
As a means of clarification, I would like it known that no one is against the Pacific Citizen (P.C.)newspaper. It has served us well for decades. The possibility of going to a digital format in the future is primarily a matter of simple economics. With the financial problems besetting the JACL and the inability to fill staff positions because of a lack of funds, it is a major concern to spend around 20% of the total budget for the JACL on the newspaper.
There have been questions about a scarcity of real JACL news covered in the P.C. and complaints from chapters that they are unable to get news included. Older members want obituaries listed in each issue. World and national news may not be current by the time the P.C. is printed. Many younger members are more interested in the digital format. The P.C. staff has tried to address these concerns and even has its own website.
While the arguments for or against the printed newspaper could go on and on, it remains a fact that the budgetary problems of the JACL are difficult. That is the main reason for the changes which are being requested regarding the P.C. If finances were not an issue, there might be no problem with spending one fifth of our budget on the newspaper. However, it is absolutely necessary that the JACL find ways to reduce costs, and spending that much money on the P.C. does not seem feasible nor sustainable for the future.
National Director, JACL
Our Nisei Pioneers Have Stories to Tell
Japanese American young people would do well to look into their own history to learn more about the early Nisei (those born in the United States of immigrant parents from Japan) pioneers who paved the way for a better life for those who would come after them. They would find that they are the posterity of some pretty amazing people. There are many untold or little told stories of outstanding people who made a significant difference. Just surviving could be a challenge, but they accomplished some remarkable endeavors in their lifetimes.
We honor the Issei, the brave souls who were true pioneers as the early immigrants to the United States from Japan who made their way to a new land which was strange to them. They tried to overcome the hardships of discrimination and prejudice as they made their way in an often hostile environment where they did not speak the language. They worked diligently and made progress in their livelihoods. They had families, homes, jobs, farms, and businesses.
The oldest Nisei, their American born children who were becoming young adults in the 1920’s, faced issues of discrimination daily and became pioneers in many facets of life. These young men and women began to assert themselves as leaders in their communities. They formed groups within the Japanese communities to fight for civil rights for their people. Thus, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) was formed in 1929 from some of those earlier groups.
Then with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Navy of Japan on December 7, 1941, life changed in an instant. The relatively comfortable lives the people of Japanese ancestry were building came crashing down as 120,000 people, who were mostly citizens of the United States living on the West Coast, were forced into concentration camps in remote and desolate areas of the country. Most lost everything. Americans of Japanese ancestry throughout the nation were immediately treated with suspicion, racism, bigotry, and hatred.
Although many of the early JACL leaders have passed on, some are still with us. They deserve our extreme gratitude for all they endured to make a better world for us. Being one of the younger Nisei (most of my contemporaries are Sansei), I have had the privilege of knowing a good number of these early leaders personally. There were people like Clarence Arai, James Sakamoto, Saburo Kido, Mike Masaoka, Edison Uno, Bill Marutani, Hank Tanaka, Pat and Lily Okura, and many, many others. (It is always dangerous to list names, and I apologize that this is a very small list which could include dozens of others). Some left us too early at fairly young ages.
A funeral service was held recently for one such leader, Chiyoko Doris Aiso Hoshide, who died in May 2010, about eight months shy of her 100th birthday. She lived in the Washington, D.C. area for decades and was one of the early pioneers of the JACL. She was born in South Pasadena, California, and as a young girl lived in Hollywood and graduated from high school there in 1929.
Doris enrolled in the first class at the newly opened UCLA Westwood campus. She and her Japanese American friends were refused admittance to any sororities so she founded the Chi Alpha Delta sorority which is still thriving and is open to young women of all backgrounds. She became an avid UCLA Bruins fan throughout her life. She and her husband Toshi spent time at the Heart Mountain Camp and then worked for many years for the United States Army Map Service. They were married for 62 years, and he predeceased her in 1997. Etsu Mineta Masaoka was one of the speakers at the funeral service.
There are many such stories waiting to be told. People live quiet lives of dignity, but their families and others often do not know of their past experiences. I encourage young people within the JACL to ask their grandparents and great grandparents to share their personal stories with them if they have not yet done so. There is still much to learn.
When one thinks of the history of the JACL’s battles for social justice, it is easy to identify the theme of righting a wrong that was unjustly thrust upon a certain group of people here in the United States. Early on, Asian American immigrants found themselves at the short end of the justice balance when it came to securing citizenship and the right to reside in this great nation. The lack of due process afforded Japanese Americans during World War II is fodder for every law student’s class on the Constitution. Voting rights, economic equality, equal access to the nation’s economic and social institutions, rights for gay and lesbian individuals, and more recently health care reform have been legislative debates in which the JACL has been a strong voice for those who have been left out of the conversation of equality.
A new arena of social justice in which we find ourselves already immersed is that of Environmental Justice or Environmental Racism as characterized by many. While the discussion of developing an environmentally healthy society rages on, we have begun to discover that environmental neglects have consequences that fall heavily upon minority communities, and the attempt to mitigate environmental problems often ignore the needs of minority communities. A clean and livable environment should be the goal for all inhabitants regardless of color, ethnicity, or economic station in life.
There are two recent cases to note, one a local issue and one a problem of global proportions. The first has to do with the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Mission, a Catholic church near Atlanta, Georgia. While reason and common sense, along with the recommendation of their Planning Commission, recommend that a solid waste transfer station not be built next to the church, the County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to allow this contrary usage. The church of some 4,500 members was told that if they did not like their new neighbors, they should move to a new location. The members are basically immigrants and their children, who happen to be non white. The question has to be asked that if this were a mainstream Caucasian church, would the Board of Commissioners come to the same conclusion. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen in recent years where garbage and refuse are being dumped in the backyard of an Asian American church.
While we read in the papers of BP (British Petroleum) taking measures to mitigate the environmental and economic disaster that is lurking on the Gulf Coast in the form of a giant oil spill, the little known fact is that the Asian American fishermen who are a large part of that Gulf Coast economy are being neglected again. Here many of the fishermen have difficulty with reading and writing English, yet the BP relief effort has been focused totally in English. There have been no information sheets, no public announcements, no press releases, nor any fact sheets printed in Vietnamese, the fishermen’s native language. This has lead to confusion and bewilderment in the Vietnamese community and the fear that their experiences of being forgotten during Katrina will be repeated. So while prevention training has been taking place, it has excluded those who cannot understand English. While their livelihoods drown in the thick of the oil sludge, the Asian American community wonders how they will survive without a place to fish and shrimp.
We were requested by Father Vien, with whom I worked during the aftermath of Katrina, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to assist in helping the New Orleans and Mississippi Asian American fishing communities get some attention during the crisis of the BP oil spill. Father Vien The Nguyen is pastor of the Mary Queen of Viet Nam Church in New Orleans. We arranged a conference call which included the White House, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the White House Initiative on AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders), various federal agencies, and the Asian American fishing community along the Gulf coast. The discussion allowed the fishing community to express their concerns directly to those who are overseeing the relief and prevention programs. This was the beginning of an on going effort to inform the federal government of the gaps in serving that community. We are seeing results, but we have a long way to go to avoid repeating the neglect that the Vietnamese community faced during Katrina.
As we move toward the future, Environmental Justice will be an issue in which the JACL will be engaged as an advocate and as an educator. We will have many opportunities to participate in programs that will educate ourselves regarding the environment but also help develop an awareness of the concept that as we move into an era that values a safe and healthy environment, we will work to make sure that good environment is part of everybody’s lives and not just the rich and the privileged.
July 13, 2009
“There were ten World War II concentration camps for Japanese Americans” as has been stated many times on many occasions. I am one who placed the Tule Lake camp as one of the ten, knowing that there was something different but only knowing the academic differences. Going on the 2009 Tule Lake Pilgrimage opened my eyes a little wider and enriched my mind a little deeper. But more important, it engaged my heart and I began to experience the feelings that have existed among those who were there during the war.
Initially, Tule Lake was a destination for those Japanese and Japanese Americans from a specific geographical locale, which is much like the other camps. If you found out in which camp a person was detained, you had a pretty good idea the region of the West Coast in which the family resided when the war started. Tule Lake began to change when the government identified persons whom they suspected of being potential spies, and it also became home to those who had voiced some degree of dissatisfaction with the way they were being treated and those who voiced descent regarding the fairness and the justice of the whole episode.
The naming of Tule Lake as a Segregation Center changed the entire landscape and led to this camp being very unique and with a stigma that has lasted over the decades. Much like a quarantine, which isolates people from the “healthy society,” this designation had the same effect. I remember as a child when two of my classmates who were sisters were isolated from the rest of the students because they had lice. Until the day they moved from the community, they faced teasing and taunting, which I am sure caused undue heartache and long-term mental stress that probably still lives with them until this day. Yet as children, they had little control of what a life of poverty dealt to them, including the lice.
We, as Japanese Americans, are of different backgrounds but have been fortunate in inheriting a legacy of strong values from our forefathers. Loyalty, upholding the family name, hard work, fairness, and justice are values that our Issei and Nisei forbearers engrained in us. At times these values may be in conflict with each other, or one places more importance on one value at a particular point in time. Family, health, and well being may influence which value is manifest at any given time.
Like my fellow first grade students who had lice, Japanese Americans had little control over what the war had dealt to them. Yet, each confronted the situation the best they could with the values that were important to them. That is what we need to come to grips with; people did what was important to them in their specific circumstance. Actions that were based on the principle of justice were not cowardice nor unpatriotic. It has been unfair for that stigma to remain after all these years. It is important to understand that all had their reasons for making the decisions that they did and it all related to the basic values that they knew to be right. It is particularly vital for all of us to respect that one individual’s reason for action is of no less importance than another’s.
After some younger JACL leaders learned of the Nisei Draft Resisters who protested the incarceration and refused to serve in the U.S. Army unless their families were released from the camps, a resolution was passed at the 2000 National JACL Convention to apologize to this group. The JACL held an official ceremony on May 11, 2002, at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, to apologize to the Nisei Draft Resisters which included some of the residents of the Tule Lake Camp.
Many of those who were considered as unpatriotic and labeled as troublemakers at Tule Lake were people of great principle and conscience. The JACL needs to have further conversation about Tule Lake. It would do well for each of us to feel the emotion and frustration of so many. The understanding of how an era dealt with values, rejection, and conflict may heal some of the hurt and anger that have existed in the community since the war. The JACL has had difficult relations over the years with many of the former residents of Tule Lake, and it was enlightening and beneficial for me to attend the pilgrimage to represent the JACL.
An important part of this year’s pilgrimage was the dedication of the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument as designated last year by President George W. Bush. The ceremony was held in front of the site of the former jail. Consul General of Japan Yasumasa Nagamine, his wife Ayako, and Yoshiro Tasaka, the consulate’s liaison to the Nikkei community, attended the ceremony and pilgrimage. Jon Jarvis, Regional Director of the National Park Service, Pacific Coast Region, who has been nominated to become Director, and others from the Park Service were in attendance as well as various other elected officials and friends of Tule Lake.
Those who planned the pilgrimage are to be commended for a job well done. Hiroshi Shimizu, who was a small child at Tule Lake during the war, is Chair of the Tule Lake Committee. Roy Ikeda is chair of the Tule Lake Preservation Committee. If anyone would like to donate to the Tule Lake Preservation Project, the funds would be appreciated as they are raising matching funds to carry the project forward.
June 26, 2009
The most asked question that I get these days is: "What is it like being in D.C. with the new Administration?" There is considerable curiosity as to whether or not the President has brought the "change" that he promised. Is the Federal government beginning to reflect what the “Real” America is today rather than the elitist perception that has prevailed in the recent past?
There is no question that there is an atmosphere of enthusiasm and a feeling of inclusion in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. My AAPI colleagues have been heard to comment that, "We have been to the White House more times in the past five months than in the past ten years. It is important to note that the White House meetings have not been restricted to ceremonial events but to substantive discussions on policy and personnel. We have met with high level officials, including the President and the First Lady, on issues from Fatherhood to Sotomayer and from health care reform and public service to the White House Initiative on AAPIs. A critical fact is that there are AAPI faces on the other side of the table.
Processes continue to exist, and this causes anxiety waiting for a final decision. Vetting, legal definitions and political posturing continue to exist, and Senate confirmation votes do not occur as quickly as desired. We do see a strict adherence to ethics standards. Some good people have been passed by because of past lobbying work. The ethics bar is set higher, and this has impacted how Agency and Congressional staff interact with the public. When a friend was finally confirmed to be an Assistant Secretary in a cabinet agency, my wife and I invited them out to dinner to welcome them to DC. In thinking nothing of it, we paid for dinner. Then they presented us with a check to cover their portion of the bill because he wanted to adhere completely to the strict ethics rules.
The same attitude of inclusion has spilled over to Congress. Just this past week, the JACL was one of a handful of organizations that took part in a round table discussion with the Senate leadership. We were promised that the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Bill would be passed soon and go to the President for his signature. We expressed our concerns about due process and immigration policy. We urged timely confirmation of key administrative and judicial appointments. Leader Reid and Senators Leahy, Spector, Levin, Durbin, and Stabinow were among the Senators who sat at the table with us.So to answer the question at hand, there is much more optimism and encouragement in the AAPI community in Washington today. At the same time, this is cautious optimism as we face the realities of recession and budget concerns. It is refreshing that AAPIs are often found "at the table" of policy discussions on the critical issues of the day. There are many areas where we need to see improvement, but the momentum is in the right direction. The unity of AAPI coalitions is being strengthened. It is indeed a good time for the JACL to be visible in the Nation's Capital and to be at the table.
When Floyd Mori, National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), met David Sakai at a function, Floyd was interested in David’s printing business because the JACL had some printing needs. Floyd also invited David to join the JACL and provided a membership application.
David, of Bowie, Maryland, and his son in law, Paul Kaup, Senior Account Executive for the company of which David is owner, President, and CEO, came to the JACL office to discuss printing. At the end of the meeting, David asked for more explanation of the various membership categories of the JACL and promptly joined the JACL Millennium Club. A third generation Japanese American from Connecticut, David said he has not had a lot of interaction with other Japanese Americans in the past besides relatives and he wanted to get involved with the JACL.
A champion table tennis player who continues to play and compete even in his sixties, David has played table tennis competitively for over forty years. He won at the 1964 U.S. Open and became the #2 U.S. Junior at the U.S. Open in 1965. He says he has competed in every U.S. Open and National Table Tennis Championship in the last 36 years, and stated: “I’ve lost more matches than anyone in history and probably won more matches than anyone as well.” He was inducted into the U.S.A. Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.
David was Vice-President of a newly formed Players Association and was among a number of players who boycotted and picketed the 1976 Philadelphia U.S. Open tournament. Their point was to emphasize that there had to be a start at professional players playing for substantial sums of money in order for the sport to grow. Six months later much more prize money was offered to the players. David has been Sponsorship Agent for the United States Table Tennis Association (USTTA) and has been the USTTA Coaching Committee Chair.
In 1981 David began working for Moore Business Forms and became an award-winning salesman. He continued with his table tennis and captained a U.S.A. Men’s Team at the 1982 U.S. Open. He started his own printing business and became a successful businessman, but he kept up with his table tennis.
David and his wife Donna met through table tennis. They won the mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open in 1977. They eventually married and have stopped playing competitively together. David continues to practice almost everyday to stay in top form and competes in approximately 35 tournaments each year. Donna was inducted before David into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, where they also have a home.
Pictured (L-R): National Executive Director Floyd Mori, Intern Mai Suzuki, Intern Ide Viriya, and Inouye Fellow Shirley Tang
Washington, D.C. – The National JACL staff in the various offices continues to have much to do in administering the programs of the nation's oldest and largest Asian American civil and human rights organization. Plans are being finalized for the National JACL Youth Conference and the Collegiate Leadership Conference, and plans are underway for the JACL Gala. Fundraising is an ongoing effort. The small staff in the Washington, D.C. office, which currently consists of myself, one fellow, two part-time interns, and one volunteer (with the position of Director of Public Policy remaining unfilled because of budgetary issues) has had a busy week.
The JACL Mineta Fellow, Crystal Xu, and a student intern from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is an exchange student from Meiji Gakuin in Japan, Mai Suzuki, just completed their assignments with the JACL. Lona Loudon is a student intern from the University of Utah and has just started work in the D.C. office. She joins Shirley Tang, Inouye Fellow, and Ide Viriya, part-time intern from the University of Maryland.
The Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), which recently awarded a grant to the JACL and with whom the JACL shares offices, held its annual conference which our staff attended this week in the Washington, D.C. area. It was a great conference which was well attended and addressed the issues of health disparity and other health issues facing the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
A Summit, sponsored by Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for leaders within the AAPI community, many of whom are members of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) of which I am the chair, was held at the Russell Senate Building. Congressman Mike Honda, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), greeted participants. Former Secretary of Transportation and Commerce Norman Mineta spoke to the group. Other members of Congress who attended the Summit and addressed the participants were: Senators Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, and Debbie Stabenow, and Representatives Madeleine Bordallo, Ahn (Joseph) Cao, Eni Faleomavaega, Al Green, Bobby Short, and David Wu. National JACL Board members, Sheldon Arakaki, Vice President of General Operations, and Ron Katsuyama, Vice President of Public Affairs, were in Washington, D.C. to attend the Summit. Ron later came by the JACL office to meet and discuss JACL matters.
It has been my privilege to be invited to the White House regularly for various policy and personnel meetings, functions, and events. In a meeting this week to discuss the nomination of Sonia Sotomayer for the Supreme Court, I was one of only two AAPI people in the discussion. The JACL is often called upon to represent the AAPI community, and the JACL continues to have relevance in today’s world. It is important for us to keep up our vigilance in the arenas of civil and human rights, education, heritage, socials, fundraising, leadership, senior and youth issues, and other interests of our organization.
By Floyd Mori
We have seen some very positive measures on Camp Preservation move through Congress which have been overshadowed by the debates on stimulating the economy, filling important Administration positions, restructuring the military’s role in the world, and jockeying for leverage in the 2010 Fiscal Budget. The passage of camp preservation measures is good news to the Japanese American community as well as the community at large. Important steps have been taken to assure that the Japanese American experience during World War II will be maintained as a lesson to the world that times of crisis are not an excuse to overlook the important civil liberties guaranteed in our Constitution.
What is important is that we have developed very strong allies in Congress who have been instrumental in assuring that elements of various pieces of legislation were retained in the omnibus appropriations bill and in the major public lands omnibus bill. On the Senate side, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who is now Chairman of Senate Appropriations, and Senator Diane Feinstein, who is Chairman of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee, provided outstanding leadership in securing funding for beginning the grant program authorized by the HR 1492 now Public Law 109-441. The JACL played a major role in the passage of HR 1492. Congressman Mike Honda, who is on the House Appropriations Committee, played an influential role in the House to support the funding measure. Congresswoman Doris Matsui and others were also strong voices in support of the funding.
Included in the appropriations measure were funds for the construction of additional barracks at Manzanar and land acquisition to expand the Minidoka site to include important artifacts from the camp. In addition, increased funding for special resource studies will allow the National Parks Service (NPS) more flexibility to conduct special resource studies of other Japanese American confinement facilities.
The omnibus public lands bill included the Tule Lake Segregation Center Special Resources Study Act which authorizes the NPS to study the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Modoc County, California, and make recommendations to Congress regarding the future management of and planning for the site. The Tule Lake site was designated as part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument by President Bush in December 2008.
As we look to the future, we are developing funding priorities for future budget cycles by working with key Senate and House staffer. PL 109-441 authorizes $38 million in funding for conserving and interpreting camp sites and other projects that are related to the World War II internment. This means maintaining strong relationships with these key congressional staffers as well as members of congress. In the State of Washington, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell along with Representatives Jay Inslee, Norman Dicks, and Jim McDermott have been extremely helpful in getting camp measures through Congress. Former Senator Larry Craig and Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho have been essential for Minidoka issues.
It is important for all of us, whether we have a camp background or not, to develop strong grassroots ties to our congressional delegation. Members of congress are moved by citizens from their state and districts. In the future our goal is to mount strong chapter advocacy efforts for the camp preservation projects that we will be championing for future development. Support is important in areas where camp sites exist as well as from families of those who were in the various camps. We need to continue our quiet work across the board to erect suitable educational facilities that will preserve the lessons of history.
By Floyd Mori
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) held its Tri-District Conference for the Central California (CCDC), the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific (NCWNP), and the Pacific Southwest (PSW) District Councils and Day of Remembrance celebration on February 14 to 16, 2009, in Clovis, California. Hosted by the CCDC, the Conference was held in conjunction with the dedication of the Pinedale Remembrance Plaza to commemorate the Pinedale Assembly Center where Japanese Americans were held during World War II before being shipped to the camps.
Although some JACLers from PSW canceled out of the Conference because of the Grapevine being closed due to snow on Friday, driving to the Fresno/Clovis area from Los Angeles on Saturday morning was a pleasant drive with clear roads and good weather all the way. For those returning to Southern California on Monday after the Conference, it was again required to encounter snow or take an alternate route. Those who attended the Conference were well repaid with excellent learning experiences which were very moving along with outstanding and enjoyable social functions.
Fourteen people had signed up for the golf tournament on Saturday morning. The opening general event was a catered barbecue dinner on Saturday evening followed by the showing of the American Pastime film about baseball and the internment of Japanese Americans at the Topaz camp. Kerry Nakagawa, associate producer of the movie, was on hand at the viewing to answer questions.
Marcia Chung is the new governor of the CCDC, following outgoing governor Bobbi Hanada. Alan Nishi is governor for NCWNP, and Alayne Yonemoto is governor for PSW. Judge Dale Ikeda and his wife Debbie along with a host of volunteers worked very hard to put together an excellent conference with outstanding panelists presenting informative plenary sessions. Dale has worked diligently with a great committee to bring about the Remembrance Plaza, which is a beautiful memorial on the site of the Pinedale Assembly Center in Fresno.
Members of the Coram Nobis legal team which worked on the cases of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui presented a very informative panel discussion. The then-young attorneys told of their firsthand experiences. They realized that their success would have a bearing on the success of the Redress Movement. Presiding Justice James Ardaiz was the moderator. The Redress panel moderated by Carole Hayashino consisted of former Congressman Norman Y. Mineta, John Tateishi, Floyd Mori, Ken Yokota, Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, and Joanne Kagiwada. Another panel which related experiences of the internment was moderated by Dr. Lane Hirabayashi with panel members, Dr. James Hirabayashi, Kiyo Sato, Rev. Saburo Masada, and Marielle Tsukamoto.
Jeanette Ishii served as emcee for the Saturday evening dinner at which a number of people were honored. Her husband, Judge Tony Ishii, escorted the Honorable Norman Mineta to the various events. Many local dignitaries were present including Congressman Jim Costa.
John Tagami, a member of the Washington, D.C. Chapter, came from Virginia to speak about the role of the World War II Veterans. His brother, Randy, drove up from Riverside. Their father, who is featured on one of the story boards at the Pinedale Memorial, was a member of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and was a translator for General Douglas MacArthur. He was born in Selma which is just south of Fresno, but this was the first visit to the area for his two sons.
Dr. John Welty, President of California State University, Fresno, presented the President’s Medal of Distinction Award to Satoshi (Fibber) Hirayama, who was a star athlete in football and baseball at Fresno State College, setting records which have stood for more than 40 years.
The Spirit of Pinedale Award was presented to Ambassador Phillip V. Sanchez, and the Spirit of Education Award was presented to Dr. Peter G. Mehas. The Spirit of Justice Award was given to Dale Minami, Don Tamaki, Professor Lorraine Bannai, Karen Kai, and Robert Rusky. The Spirit of Public Service Award was presented to Senator Daniel K. Inouye and accepted by Norman Mineta, who received the award last year.
Although it rained heavily through the entire program of the Dedication Ceremonies for the Pinedale Remembrance Plaza on Monday morning, spirits were not dampened as the rain was much appreciated and needed. It was wet and cold through the ceremony, but the rain subsided just in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The keynote speaker for the Pinedale dedication ceremony was the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, who gave an eloquent speech.
By Floyd Mori
My first inclination was to leave town during the Inaugural week because we knew that D.C. would be a virtual gridlock with people and events throughout the city. But when we got invitations to attend the various events, my wife Irene and I decided that we needed to participate in this historic series of events. So we stayed and exhausted ourselves going to as many events as we could.
While the events were exciting and memorable to witness, the genuine spirit of togetherness and enthusiasm were the highlights of the week for me. People came from all over the nation just to be here. Most had no fancy invitations nor did they even expect to get into any of the events of celebration. They just wanted to be here at an historic time. They roamed the streets, rode the METRO, and hung out at the bars and restaurants.
A contractor from Detroit was on the METRO, and we struck up a conversation around the issue of the change to inclusion rather than exclusion. There was this young Republican couple from New York who became impressed with Obama’s ability to inspire to better things. The sports newscaster from Alabama told me that she dropped everything just to spend a few days here hoping to get a glimpse of the President and his wife. She was rewarded with a front row view of the President dancing with his wife, Michelle and of course, standing next to me. The New York City fireman, who was disabled and in braces, still braved the crowds to get his seat at the Swearing In Ceremony. A couple from San Antonio, Republican African Americans with the wife seven months pregnant with twins, dropped everything just for the opportunity to watch the Inaugural parade. I met so many happy people
We are concerned about whether the spirit and attitude of change for the better will prevail in the halls of Congress. I think there is great hope as I listened to people from all walks of life and of all political persuasions come together in one big sea of optimism. We are worried of expectations that are too high. But I have always felt that you have to aim high to hit distant and lofty goals. I think our nation is ready for all of us to find common ground and move beyond strict political rhetoric and dogma that prevent us from solving the human problems of the day.
Was the Inaugural experience worth my postponed trip out of town? Of course, it was. I will never regret sitting for hours waiting for the Opening Ceremony to begin and standing for hours in front of a stage to watch a couple minutes of the First Couple dancing together. I met so many great people who felt as I did. They were kind and courteous. They didn’t complain about long lines and people that cut in. They didn’t ask your political party , but if they discovered that you were of a different political persuasion, they were accepting and willing to discuss differences and still go on speaking kindly of the President and what they were hoping to see happen. There is hope that everything is going to get better.
By Floyd Mori
Today was historic in every sense of the word for the Asian American community and for the Nation. A man who displays the spirit of his Samurai ancestry, showed courage, dedication, and loyalty to a nation that only 65 years ago had scorned, excluded, and imprisoned those of his ethnic ancestry. General Eric Shinseki stood tall, confident, and proud to be who he is in representing the heritage of his parents and of his nation. The values of honesty and hard work were a theme of the praise he received in an arena that often scolds and belittles.
Not unnoticed was that Senator Daniel Akaka chaired the committee that would deliberate on the General’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Senator Daniel K. Inouye introduced the General and spoke of their long friendship and of his admiration of the General’s desire to serve our nation even after a serious injury threatened his career. Former Senator Bob Dole, who was wounded in the same theater of World War II as Senator Inouye, spoke highly of the General and foresaw a smooth transition because of the friendship of the General and present Secretary James Peake.
One by one, each member of the committee praised General Shinseki and offered support for his confirmation. Praises such as “Could not have been a better choice”, “An inspired act of leadership by President Elect Obama”, and “when you are confirmed” rather that “if you are confirmed” were generously spoken by members of the committee. Senator Jay Rockefeller proclaimed that the General, “wouldn’t know how not to tell the truth”.
Shinseki served 38 years in the Army beginning with his appointment to West Point, to which Senator Inouye had recommended him. The General gave great praise to his wife, Patricia, who has stood by him for 43 years and 31 addresses during his career in the Army. His career culminated with his appointment to be the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs. His honest insight into the personnel needs for fighting the Iraqi War was praised by many but found disfavor with the Bush Administration.
As a pillar of integrity, General Shinseki’s confirmation may have the most support on a bi-partisan basis of any of President Elect Obama’s nominations for his cabinet. It is a proud time for the Asian American community to have a person of his intellectual and moral caliber represent them in this exciting new administration of change. We are in complete support of his confirmation.
By Floyd Mori
Yesterday I received a call from the Presidential Transition Office asking me if I was busy the next morning. Of course I was busy, but I asked what they were thinking. They invited me to attend the Obama Economic Stimulus speech the next morning. I thought for a nano second and then indicated that I would clear my calendar to be there to listen to the President Elect.
So early in morning I showed up at George Mason University, the site of the speech, which is about 20 miles from downtown DC. It was cold, but I wanted to make sure I got a good seat so I arrived early. I had been to gatherings at the White House and other events that featured President Bush, and there was always a long line with big crowds. I wasn’t first in line but near the front. After waiting for about 30 minutes, the Transition Guest list came and we were checked off to go through the security process. Not bad! It took only a few minutes.
The auditorium was not large, and I was able to grab some seats four rows from the front where I saved a couple of seats for my AAPI colleagues, Lisa Hasegawa and Doua Thor. Then the big guns began filing in, new White House staffers, members of Congress, newly named cabinet nominees, then the familiar Secret Service agents with that thing in their ear. A couple of them could have been tackles on any NFL team.
For crowds, it was relatively intimate, not more that a few hundred people and seemingly millions of press. As we waited, when there was a hint that he might be coming, the crowd settled down only to begin the crowd noise again when he didn’t. Then finally, I could see him through a crack in the curtains. He was preceded on to the stage by a small cadre of media people who had apparently been traveling with his entourage. Then he emerged between some curtains to the pleasure of those attending.
His speech was short and to the point. After prefacing his remarks with what might happen to the economy, he focused on urgency and the need for immediate action. For me it was a great review of the economic principles I had taught as a college professor. He explained the basic premise that aggregate demand needed a shot in the arm from the government sector. His mixture of New Deal with trappings of new aged ecological needs was met with enthusiasm from the crowd. He urged Congress to work for a “common purpose above partisan politics.” So the challenge is for Congress to come up with a package that ends the culture of anything goes and replace it with some thoughtful rebuilding, retrofitting, and rejuvenating.
As the crowd emptied from the auditorium, he and his entourage left in the familiar black SUV’s with a trail of police escorts front and back. I was happy to have been there first hand to see what the nation saw on TV. The commentators were already dissecting his speech as I drove back to the office. Yes, let’s get back to “aggregate demand” economics because “supply side” economics trickled down only to those who had excess market power and could conceal their exploitation of basic market principles. Come on Congress, let’s get something done for the average man on the street who is supposed to be the “king” in a market economy.
By Floyd Mori
The atmosphere in Washington DC is electric with excitement and anticipation for change to occur. The JACL is a very integral part of much of the preliminaries and the main event. I thought you might be interested in some of the things we are doing during this first week of the new Congressional session.
Congress opened for business yesterday, and a lot of the ceremony of swearing in and getting settled for the long run was evident in the Halls of Congress. New and old furniture lined the office buildings, and welcoming parties were going on throughout congressional office buildings. I attended a party that welcomed in the first Vietnamese Congressman, Republican Joseph Cao from New Orleans. Many AAPI leaders were there to greet the new Congressman. It brought back memories of the time when I upset some heavy party supported candidates some 33 years ago in California.
The somber meeting of today was a hearing called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the state of the economy. I represented the JACL at this hearing and sat with Congressman Mike Honda as the unsettling statistical projections of the worst recession since the Great Depression were discussed by some of the top economists in the nation. About 100 members of Congress stopped what they were doing to come and listen to the bad news.
The invitations I had received to attend receptions hosted by Speaker Pelosi on the House side and Leader Reid on the Senate side resulted in a very productive day. Interestingly, the House reception was more elegant with a large contingent of the new members of the House on display. There I had a chance to chat with Speaker Pelosi and Congressmen Becerra, Faleomavaega, and Stark, along with new members from Arizona, New York, and Virginia. A nice lunch buffet and great desserts were on the menu.
The Senate event was more informal although speeches were made by Leader Reid and Senator Debbie Stabenow. At this light hors d’oeuvres affair, the new Senators roamed the large Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office building, and with a smaller crowd, I was able to meet most of the new Senators and chit chat. Among the new Senators to whom I was able introduce the JACL were Mark Warner of Virginia, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Senator Reid was cordial and introduced me to a fellow BYU graduate who was in attendance. I discussed the JACL with Senator Stabenow. Senator Inouye related to me his busy schedule and forewarned me that he would be in and out of some meetings we would be attending together which are scheduled for this weekend with Japanese Americans and the Japanese Consular corps and Ambassador.
One of the major benefits of getting invited to these key Hill events is the opportunity to develop closer relationships with staff and to network with other advocates. Now is the time for introductions in a very festive atmosphere. Today was an A+ day for somebody like me. I was invited to attend the Obama speech on Thursday. I will be giving you my thoughts of listening to the President Elect’s first major speech on the economy.
By Floyd Mori
Recently I attended a Congressional hearing on Youth Crime and Violence. A basic premise was that “prevention” is far more effective and less costly than punishment and suppression. This is the case with most things in life. Child poverty, inferior education, and lack of adequate health care are root causes of youth crime, and yet these are weaknesses in our society that can be prevented. Therefore, the focus of the hearing was to enhance programs that are aimed at prevention in order to have a real impact on the problem. The evidence of life around us collaborates this premise.
If I may draw a parallel, it is my feeling that our community is besieged by the crime of ethnic denial and cultural neglect. The result is poor self image and an absence of self identity. Yet at the same hearing mentioned above, developing a sense of identity was a major element in building self worth and a sense of well being. To me, this is a crime that can be mitigated by more aggressive preventive measures.
The media along with social and political pressures have forced us to become more “American” in order to fit in and get ahead in today’s competitive society. In past decades, “American” meant to be more white, Anglo-Saxon, and protestant like Joe the Plumber mentioned during the recent campaign. The reality is that America has become more diverse, and it should be more fashionable and politically expedient to just be who you really are. That means to continue to embrace the values and culture of our forefathers who came from a different part of the world than Europe. It is somewhat sad to hear young people state that they have little or no contact with their ethnic roots or with others of the same ethnicity.
It seems that today many youth do not discover the value of their heritage and culture until they enter college. Modern social and economic progress will be dependent on the values that our forefathers embraced. Hard work, honesty, and respect of family are at the core of Asian values. These values have been largely lost in the America of today. The easy way out, any means to meet an end, and a dysfunctional family structure is what America seems to be today. So to be “American” is not the wave of the future. To be yourself and be proud of it is what will bring outstanding achievement, self respect, and peace of mind.
So where are we in fulfilling this preventive measure in our communities? One of the missions of the JACL is to preserve culture. I think we need to do more. We can do more to involve our children and families in embracing and understanding the great values of our Asian heritage within a framework of our American society and to help them be proud of their ethnicity. Preventing the loss of our identity and culture is a great investment into the future.
By Floyd Mori
With the election of a new President now completed, the JACL offers congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama for his success in being elected as the 44th President of the United States. We also thank Senator John McCain for his service to the country and his willingness to run for President. With all the changes in the nation, there are still problems with the economy. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is not exempt from concerns about the future.
The second National JACL Gala Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., however, was a bright spot and enjoyed by those who attended. “A Salute to Champions of Redress” commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided for Redress and an apology from the President of the United States to Japanese Americans who were interned in concentration camps during World War II. Honorees were: The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, John Tateishi, Grayce Uyehara, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and AT&T as well as two rising champions, David Inoue and Nathan Shinagawa. Bill Yoshino, JACL Midwest Regional Director, was honored for thirty years of service on the staff of the JACL. Congressman Mike Honda was the emcee, and Senator Daniel Inouye was Honorary Chairman.
Thanks to all who supported the Gala in any way. Sponsors were: AT&T, Eli Lilly, State Farm, Aratani Foundation, Freddie Mac, NEA, Anheuser Busch, Annie E. Casey Foundation, CBS, Patrick Atagi, Beth Fujishige, Donna Cole, John Tagami, Ray and Mary Murakami, and National JACL Board members, Larry Oda, Sheldon Arakaki, and David and Carol Kawamoto. JACL Districts and Chapters which purchased tables, dinner tickets, and/or ads were: CCDC, EDC, MDC, PNW, Philadelphia Chapter, Washington D.C. Chapter, Twin Cities JACL, Chicago Chapter, Cincinnati JACL, Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL, Boise Valley Chapter, New York JACL/XV Copani. Individual support was received from: Judy Niizawa, Kaz Oye, Miyako Kadogawa, Aiko, Lou and Paul Igasaki, Norman Mineta, Floyd Mori, Ross Macdonald (BB&T Bank), Kristine Minami, Michelle Yoshida, Josh Spry, Maya Yamazaki, and the National JACL Board. Supporting organizations were AJC, APAICS (Asian American Institute for Congressional Studies), APALA (Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance), JAVA (Japanese American Veterans Association), NJAMF (National Japanese American Memorial Foundation), and OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans). (sorry if some are not listed)
Membership numbers are down within the JACL, and outside funding is not plentiful. The JACL has long been a membership driven organization. We NEED our members. Thanks for being members. Those who are lapsed members are not likely to hear this message except from you who are their friends and family members. Please help us try to get our lapsed members to rejoin the JACL.
As we review chapter membership rosters, many chapters have almost as many listed as lapsed members as those who are current members. There are even some chapter board members and membership chairpersons on the lapsed list. This hurts the workings of the JACL.
Scholarship applicants often join the JACL simply to apply for scholarships and let their membership lapse as soon as they have received a JACL scholarship. This seems to be particularly true of chapter scholarship applicants. Somehow we need to instill in them a feeling of purpose in belonging to the JACL so that they will WANT to continue as members of the JACL. It is so inexpensive for students to be members of the JACL, but it seems that most only join for the scholarships. This group should be our future leaders, but they have generally not had much of a sense of loyalty or commitment to the JACL. We hope they will feel a responsibility to give back to the community which helped to provide an education for them.
Many recipients of the National JACL scholarships have gone on to become leaders within the JACL, both as youth/student members and later as regular members of the JACL. The JACL is grateful to them and happy to be able to help them further their education so that they may find success in their endeavors. The scholarship program is an important part of the JACL.
There will always be discrimination and prejudice in the world. The Topaz Museum recently received an extremely hateful letter from a group who is still espousing the idea that the internment of Japanese Americans was justified. They still call us by the hurtful and hateful J word. The JACL is needed to combat this type of racism and to protect civil rights. Higher membership numbers will help us in the fight for justice. If we could just get back half of our lapsed members, we could increase our numbers substantially. Some of them just need a personal contact from a chapter or family member. The JACL needs YOUR help to increase our membership.
The JACL was saddened at the passing of Edwin Endow, who served ably as a vice president on the National Board for two terms, and expresses condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed.
As a closing note, we would like to say thank you to Debee Yamamoto, outgoing Director of Public Policy in the Washington, D.C. JACL office. Debee worked very hard on the Gala, and we appreciate her efforts. After giving birth to her daughter Emi earlier this year, Debee has decided to leave her employment at the JACL to spend time with her baby. We wish her and her family well.
By Floyd Mori
While the bail out is aimed at big financial institutions to the benefit of large stock holders and big time investors, there is an alarming theme in the country that is pointing the blame of the world financial crisis on poor minorities. So the allegations run that because banks and mortgage companies had to lower their standards to make mandated loans to minorities who were unqualified to own a home, the bubble was burst and the house of financial cards began to tumble.
Let me be perfectly clear, this is as far from the fact than blaming the Holocaust on Hitler’s mother because she would have the audacity to give birth to such a person. Foreclosure is market wide, extending its reach to the rich, middle class, and the poor. Possibly each purchased his or her home for a different reason, but it is well documented that many who are now in foreclosure could qualify for a conventional loan. But a conventional loan meant lower commissions because the qualifying level would buy only cheaper homes. The construction market, the real estate market, and the lending market were skewed to accommodate the needs of the seller and the financial institutions rather than the buyer. We all know that we experienced years of a sellers market flamed by the sub-prime loans that have been the real root cause of our financial debacle.
As I have said, a true competitive market requires buyers and sellers to be able to compete with equal knowledge of the market in which they participate. The new creation of sub-prime loan packages left the buyer unable to absorb the potential consequences of what might happen. Risk was not part of the discussion. The topic was owning that second vacation home, to upgrading to the large estate, and to some just fulfilling the American dream. So it was not just the poor. Look into many middle class and upper class neighborhoods where there are many foreclosure signs, and the entire economy now suffers.
Let me be frank that it is not fact but fiction to place blame on a small universe of poorer minorities who are for the first time experiencing the American Dream. Color has a face while those who manipulated and created mortgage instruments that were to their own benefit remain faceless but should not remain blameless. Minorities are only part of the American Dream that has turned into a nightmare for people of all stations in life but as usual, some are trying to put the blame where it does not belong and where voices are not often heard. Minorities were victims just like everybody else who was caught in this era of greed and mismanagement.
By Floyd Mori
As a former college economics professor, it is not a difficult matter for me to understand how the market ought to operate. The market economy can be simple in its operation if all of the mechanisms are tuned correctly and there is transparency and equal understanding by the players in the market. The difficulty comes when knowledge is not shared equally and economic power brings imperfections into the market place. The weak become victims, and the powerful become the profiteers. The financial markets have become infested with large and powerful institutions where greed and mismanagement have fed off the labors and dreams of the ordinary working people of our country.
In a perfect market, mismanagement results in failure of a single entity. In our imperfect market, mismanagement will affect the livelihood of many thousands who may have direct and indirect relationships with the monopolistic entity in question. So the result of the malfunction on Wall Street among a few of the major players will, in the end, cause hardship with many of us indirectly associated through our banks or other financial institutions. Faulty mortgages impacted the balance sheet of many major institutions that had invested in mortgage backed securities. Because of this fall in value, liabilities began to outweigh assets, which is the cause of insolvency and bankruptcy. Cash became a scarce commodity so credit began to dry up and place consumers and small businesses that depend on short-term credit in emergency conditions.
Let it be clearly said that the consumer is the victim and not the perpetrator as some have suggested in blaming loaning practices to low income minorities. The fault lies with the predatory practices of the financial institutions and the lack of oversight in insuring the public that their financial practices were safe. Most homeowners today would qualify for conventional loans but with different terms. The consumer simply fell prey to questionable practices that, in the end, proved to be fatal.
The “rescue” plan with which Congress is struggling provides a stop gap that is a “better than nothing” strategy. With the government basically taking the responsibility of these faulty financial instruments, it takes a major financial liability from the soiled financial institutions, which then can go forward and use the influx of cash to feed the credit markets. The government hopes that in the future the value of these faulty mortgages will rebound and have the potential of actually making a profit for the investment. You might say that they are buying very low and hoping for the value to reach a reasonable level.
The flaw in the rescue plan is that the homeowner and small business person is left at risk. Without emergency measures to allow for modifying of the terms of loans, the bringing back of authority for courts to modify the terms of a loan as a last resort, and a limited period of allowing a moratorium on foreclosures while the plan is implemented, many consumers will lose all they have worked a lifetime to acquire. The rescue should minimize the hardship on the consumer as it has done for the big players on Wall Street.