January 21, 2009

I am preparing a speech I will be making this Saturday for the Seattle JACL Installation dinner. The theme of the event is “Our Nisei, Okage sama de,” or, we are what we are because of you. As I sit here thinking of what I want to say, the words of President Obama’s Inauguration Speech come to mind as he talked about the people who made American great.

“It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”
When I heard these words, I thought of the Nisei in our community who fit this description — individuals who get things done and in the end prefer to deflect deserved recognition. In particular I think of the Seattle Nisei who became leaders of the Redress Movement which culminated in President Reagan signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 calling for an apology and restitution for Japanese Americans who were interned and incarcerated during World War II. These Seattle Nisei were victims of the government’s actions, but they didn’t just sit back and complain, they did something that made a difference for the country, a step towards what President Obama calls the process of perfecting our nation…[to be continued on Saturday night at the JACL banquet…]