The Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) Board of Directors has elected former Assemblymember George Nakano (D-Torrance) as its new chairman. The well-known community leader brings valuable experiences and insights to the job from his years as an educator and school district administrator, and as an elected official skilled at navigating challenging political waters.
Nakano began his term on Jan. 1, following Michael Ozawa, senior managing director of corporate finance at FTI Consulting, who is immediate past GFBNEC chairman.
“Michael has been a fantastic leader,” Nakano said. “He’s bright, collaborative, a good listener and a consensus builder. He took on enormous tasks, including our search for a new president, the building project, fundraising and overseeing our finances and programs. We are grateful for his commitment to the veterans and thankful for his leadership and services to the Go For Broke National Education Center.”
GFBNEC is a national non-profit organization with a mission to educate the public about responsibilities, challenges and rights of American citizenship, using life stories of Nisei soldiers of World War II. Nakano learned about these soldiers from his uncle Noboru Uesugi of Kaneohe, Oahu, who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company E with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). He became even more knowledgeable in 1985 as a new Torrance city councilmember when he invited the 100th/442nd Veterans Association to join in the city’s annual Armed Forces Day Parade.
“As an educator, I believe it’s important for the public to learn about the Japanese American World War II soldiers’ courage and accomplishments,” Nakano said.
Nakano began his career as a math teacher at Jordan High School in Watts and retired in 1991 as an administrator for the Inglewood Unified School District.
Elected to serve in the State Assembly for six years (1998–2004), Nakano was appointed as Democratic Caucus chair, becoming both the first Asian American to hold that leadership position and one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in the California State Legislature.
He was inaugural chairman of the Assembly’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus and authored the bill that established the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs.
Nakano initiated a poster for the California Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary of statehood) that included the Go For Broke Monument. He secured additional signage to ensure that drivers know the I-405/I-105 freeway interchange in Los Angeles is a memorial to Sadao Munemori, the first Nisei soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary bravery and sacrifice in World War II.
And in 2002, the 60th anniversary of the incarceration of Japanese Americans, he led the Legislature to officially recognize Nisei veterans for the first time in the state’s history.
Nakano’s passion for education and the Nisei soldiers’ legacy are connected. Over two legislative sessions, he secured a total of $1.5 million to help fund GFBNEC’s educational program for schoolchildren about roles of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
Recognized by countless organizations during his 26 years of public service, Nakano was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Japanese government, the Community College League of California’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and California State University Los Angeles’ University Service Award. The City of Torrance named a theater for him at its Cultural Arts Center.
He continues to volunteer his experience and expertise for the benefit of non-profit and educational organizations, serving on several boards and in other leadership roles.
Nakano was recruited to the GFBNEC Board of Governors in 2006 and agreed to join the Board of Directors in May 2010. Joining him on the organization’s executive committee are Vice Chairman Terry Hara, deputy chief and commanding officer, LAPD Operations, West Bureau; Secretary Corinne Akahoshi, rail transportation manager, Toyota Logistics Services Inc.; and Ozawa.
“It’s a tremendous honor to serve as chair and to work with this organization,” Nakano said. “Like every other non-profit today, we face challenges, but I’m confident that, with board leadership, staff and volunteer support, we will accomplish our goals.”
Nakano was born in Boyle Heights. He and his family were incarcerated during World War II at the Santa Anita Assembly Center, in Jerome, Ark., and at Tule Lake, Calif. for a total of four years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s in education from CSULA. He’s also a fifth-degree black belt in kendo.
Nakano and his wife have a son, a daughter and two granddaughters. They’ve lived in Torrance for 45 years.
GFBNEC provides curriculum content to schools throughout the continental U.S. and in Hawaii, giving students real-life examples by incorporating footage from its vast library of Hanashi Oral History interviews into teacher-training and classroom materials. For additional information, visit goforbroke.org.