As part of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts United States of America (GSUSA), Satomi Honjiyo and seven other Girl Scouts from across the nation were invited to meet President Obama in the Oval Office on June 8.
All eight scouts were recipients of the Gold Award recipients, the highest honor, bestowed on only five percent of all eligible scouts. Satomi is the daughter of Amy Utsunomiya Honjiyo and Reid Honjiyo of Monterey Park.
Satomi earned her Gold Award using a docudrama about Ralph Lazo, “Stand Up for Justice,” which was produced by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and Visual Communications. When asked how she chose her project, she explained, “First, I was advised that the Gold Award should be a project that the scout truly believes is personally important, something that you could work on with conviction. I remembered seeing a documentary about a teenager who stood up for what he believed in. The movie impressed me; it was a true story about a young person.”
Although Satomi and her mother Amy were in Washington, D.C. for only 28 hours, their visit was filled with activities from their arrival on Thursday to their meeting with Obama on Friday. The first event for the scouts and chaperones, along with the regional Girl Scout CEOs and National Board members, was a reception with Dr. Jill Biden as guest speaker followed by an intimate dinner where the girls got a chance to get to know each other.
“It was striking to me that the experiences and hometowns of the Girl Scouts were very diverse and yet, they were all Girl Scouts; they were all representatives of America. Satomi was the only representative from the West Coast,” said Amy.
On Friday, the Girl Scouts’ National Public Policy and Advocacy Office briefed the scouts in preparation for their visit with the President. They then took a 10-minute walk to the White House, where they passed their photo IDs through the gate and entered another gated area. There they received lanyards that denoted they could enter the Oval Office; however, as they passed through to the grounds, they set off the metal detectors because of all their Girl Scout pins.
Before the meeting with the President, the White House arranged for individual meetings for the scouts with White House staff that were interested in the Gold Award projects. Satomi met with two representatives: Gautam Raghavan, associate director of the Office of Public Engagement, and Shin Inouye, director of specialty media for the Office of Communications, who knew about the camps but did not know of Lazo.
As they completed their meetings and walked toward the Oval Office, Obama opened the door and welcomed them into his office. “All the Scouts gasped and were speechless,” said Satomi. “Before our visit, I studied photos of the Oval Office, but while I was in the Oval Office I only saw President Obama. He was inspiring and a very good listener. I’ll always remember my visit with the President.”
Obama congratulated them on achieving the Gold Award and told them that he looks forward to seeing what good things they will do in the future. He recognized Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low posthumously with the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, during this centennial year of the Girl Scouts in America.
In March 2012, Satomi was selected to be a Girl Scout Great, someone who inspires others. She has been a scout for 13 years and is currently a Girl Scout Lifetime member. She will be heading off to Japan to study at Temple University’s Tokyo campus to improve her Japanese speaking skills, and plans to pursue a career in fashion design.
Satomi said, “With the support of my advisor Patty Nagano, I was able to share the documentary ‘Stand Up for Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story,’ which gave me an opportunity to share how a Mexican American teenager made the decision to accompany his Japanese American friends to the Manzanar concentration camp because he did not think it was right for the Japanese to be sent away.”
Satomi held discussions with the Monterey Park Library Teen Club, East Los Angeles Community College, Monterey Park Language School, Brightwood School Girl Scouts Troop and San Gregonio Council Girl Scouts Troop, and made two neighborhood presentations, which included many neighbors who were interned during World War II.
Nagano, a member of the Education Committee of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, commented, “We are very proud of Satomi and her accomplishments. Satomi is a perfect example of why the film was made — to inspire youth to stand up for justice.”