The Japanese American National Museum will bring home its innovative, educational traveling exhibition “Fighting for Democracy: Who Is the ‘We’ in ‘We, the People’?” as its seventh stop of a national 10-city tour by installing it at the museum beginning Saturday, May 28.
Originally created to highlight the stories of seven diverse individuals and their service to their country during World War II, “Fighting for Democracy” emphasizes their civic engagement that helped to change American democracy for the betterment of all.
The traveling exhibition, which was created to adapt to numerous sites, began touring the country in 2008. It will be on display at JANM through Aug. 28.
Developed by the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (NCPD), an educational program of the museum funded through a congressional appropriation and in partnership with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, the “Fighting for Democracy” experiential exhibition premiered in Los Angeles in 2005 and provided the diverse perspectives of seven ordinary citizens whose lives and communities were forever changed by World War II. This exhibition asks visitors to think critically about freedom, history, and, ultimately, the ongoing struggle to live democratically in a diverse America.
The exhibition uses World War II as a case study to begin discussion about how women and minorities have expanded the meaning of “we” in “we, the people,” which begins the preamble to the Constitution. It looks at the experiences of seven real people and traces their stories throughout the pre-war, wartime, and post-war periods as examples of the millions of Americans whose lives were affected. They provide ways of helping students to understand the conditions facing Americans before and during the war.
Those profiled are Hector Garcia of Mercedes, Texas; Carl Gorman of Chinle, Ariz.; Hazel Ying Lee of Portland, Ore.; Domingo Los Banos of Kalaheo, Hawaii; George Saito of Los Angeles; Frances Slanger of Boston; and Roger “Bill” Terry of Los Angeles.
“ ‘Fighting for Democracy’ aims to teach young people that they, too, can shape American democracy, and uses historic examples from World War II,” explained Akemi Kikumura Yano, JANM president and CEO. “We have seen that this traveling exhibition inspires people with stories of remarkable Americans like George Saito and Hector Garcia and others and the result is that young people take it upon themselves to change our country for the better of all.”
“Fighting for Democracy” has already been installed at the University of Texas, San Antonio’s Institute for Texan Culture, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site in Alabama, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Among its future sites are the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
NCPD is an educational program that provides tools for living democratically in a diverse American society. Partnering with educators and community-based mentors, the center works to inspire youth to be active, informed participants in shaping democracy in America. It explores the stories of cultural, ethnic, gender and religious diversity among individuals and communities that have contributed to and strengthened democracy in America.
NCPD has produced an Educator’s Resource Guide and Educator’s Tool Kit to accompany the traveling exhibition. These educational tools will help educators approach the concepts and material within “Fighting for Democracy.” For more information or to download the resource guide, go to www.ncdemocracy.org.
The Los Angeles exhibition and traveling version were funded in part by the U.S. Army Center of Military History. The 10-city tour has been made possible through the support of The Boeing Company.
The museum is located at 369 E. First St. (at Central) in Little Tokyo. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.