NEW YORK — The government of Japan will honor Grant Ujifusa with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays for his contributions to preserving the history and culture of the Japanese American community and promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.
The conferment ceremony will take place in New York on Jan. 26, 2012.
Ujifusa was a key player in securing the passage of the historic Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The legislation provided redress for grievances caused by the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He significantly affected the course of the bill in Congress and the White House.
In 1983, leaders of JACL’s Legislative Education Committee asked Ujifusa to become their chief strategist as they worked to secure passage of the Civil Liberties Act. They knew that Ujifusa, as the co-author of the “Almanac of American Politics,” had unmatched access to representatives and senators from both parties. Ujifusa worked closely with Japanese American members of Congress to devise a justification for redress that would appeal to both liberals and conservatives of the 1980s.
While he is well-known for convincing senior Republican leaders in the House to vote for redress, Ujifusa is probably best remembered for reversing President Ronald Reagan’s publicly stated opposition to redress. When Reagan signed the bill on Aug. 10, 1988, the Japanese American community achieved a stunning victory.
A former senior editor at Random House, Ujifusa is also the founding editor of the “Almanac of American Politics,” a book in constant use at the White House, in Congress, and among the national media.
The first edition of the “Almanac of American Politics” was published in 1972, when it was a National Book Award finalist. Journalists such as Tim Russert and George Will called the book “the bible of American politics.”
While at Random House, Ujifusa commissioned an oral history of the Japanese American internment camp experience, “And Justice for All,” preserving an important piece of history for future generations.
Ujifusa, a third-generation Japanese American, grew up on farm in Wyoming, where his Okayama-born grandfather came to help build a railroad in 1904. An academic and athletic star in high school, he was admitted to Harvard, from which he graduated with honors in 1965.
His mother, Mary Ujifusa, was fluent in written and spoken Japanese. Proud of her Japanese heritage, she was also committed to equal rights for all Americans. From his mother, Ujifusa learned why civic engagement was both necessary and rewarding.
Ujifusa served on the Board of Governors at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and on the Board of Directors of the Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Extensively interviewed about the redress movement, he has also written many articles about the redress bill as it moved through Congress and on to the White House. He now consults for a major Wall Street firm, where he shares insights on politics and the economy that he has developed over a lengthy and illustrious career.
Ujifusa lives with his wife, Amy, a clinical social worker, and an adopted son John in Chappaqua, N.Y. His biological sons Steven, a historian, and Andrew, a newspaper reporter, are, like their father, graduates of Harvard.