By FLOYD MORI
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) has just concluded its 2017 National JACL Convention in Washington, D.C. Having attended all or nearly all of the JACL conventions over the past 40-plus years, I have seen a lot of changes. So many years have passed, and now I have become one of the old-timers in the JACL.
The theme of the convention was “Resilience, Remembrance, Resolve.” Those three words have great meaning for the Japanese American community.
It used to be that Harry Honda, esteemed past editor of the Pacific Citizen newspaper, documented every convention. He mentioned the names of people who were there and covered interesting news of the convention. Harry passed away in 2013 at the age of 93. Shea Aoki of Seattle had attended every JACL convention until recently. They and others of their generation who are no longer at the conventions are missed.
It was my privilege in the past to serve as a national president on the JACL Board. Other past national presidents in attendance were: Judge Raymond Uno, Floyd Shimomura, Kenneth Inouye, Larry Oda, and David Kawamoto.
Here are some highlights of the Sayonara Banquet. David Inoue was welcomed as the new national executive director of the JACL. David and his wife Kaori have two children, Mika and Akira. I have had the pleasure of personally knowing David and Kaori for years. David has been an officer of the Washington, D.C. JACL Chapter. He is a very capable person and a man of many talents.
A video was shown for Bill Yoshino, who retired from the JACL in March after nearly 40 years on the staff. He was the Midwest regional director and was national executive director at various times. Bill and his wife Carol have been fixtures at the conventions for many years. Karen Yoshitomi, past JACL Pacific Northwest District regional director, also attended the convention. Former JACL staffers were recognized.
Former Rep. Mike Honda was honored for his many years of service to the JACL and its causes. Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta spoke about matters important to the JACL and the Japanese American community. He presented background information about redress, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), Edison Uno, Norm’s sister Etsu, and her husband, Mike Masaoka, an early JACL leader. President’s awards were presented to Joan (Jodie) Bernstein, chair of the CWRIC, and posthumously to Angus Macbeth, special counsel to the CWRIC. Joie Chen was emcee at the Sayonara Banquet.
Stephanie Nitahara, interim national executive director, Patty Wada, regional director for the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District, and others of the JACL staff were working hard at the convention. Gary Mayeda, national president, and other members of the JACL National Board were also busy. John Tobe was convention chair. The sponsors and volunteers were thanked for their contributions to the convention.
It was nice to see old friends and to meet new friends. There were some there who have also become old-timers who were still serving as delegates. There were also boosters who attended to meet with friends. All JACL members are encouraged to try to attend the conventions if possible. They are enjoyable and enlightening. The next National JACL Convention is planned for 2018 in Philadelphia, a great place to visit.
The JACL has work to do, and it is good to see capable young people step up to the plate to help the JACL remain a vital organization. National Youth Chair Kota Mizutani and National Youth Representative Kenji Kuramitsu, along with other members of the National Youth/Student Council (NY/SC), played an important role in the convention. They and some National Board members are around the age that the early leaders of the JACL were when they formed the JACL in 1929.
The NY/SC members and Kakehashi alumni who attended the convention, along with other young people, are the hope of the future for the JACL. It is important that the JACL nurtures and engages the younger generations who bring new enthusiasm, vitality, and vision to the JACL for the 21st century.
Everyone is encouraged to help build membership. All ages are needed and welcome. The JACL remains important and relevant in today’s society.