WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) held its fifth annual “Salute to Champions” gala event in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29.
Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. secretary of transportation, served as honorary chairman of the gala. He welcomed the attendees. as did National JACL President David Kawamoto and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki. The emcee was Denise Nakano, a news anchor for NBC in Philadelphia.
The JACL Gala honors outstanding individuals who have made a difference by contributing to the causes in which the JACL is involved. This year, individuals who broke barriers in the field of athletics were honored:
• Wat Misaka, the first person of color to play in the NBA (New York Knicks, 1947);
• Don Wakamatsu, the first person of Asian American background to become a Major League Baseball manager (Seattle Mariners, 2009-10);
• Cappy Harada, recognized posthumously for his contribution to diversity In Major League Baseball;
• Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, a strong supporter of diversity as the congressman for American Samoa since 1989;
• Comcast/NBC, a corporate partner committed to diversity and support of organizations such as the JACL.
Sponsors for the gala at the Diamond level were AT&T and Eli Lilly. David Lin, National JACL vice president of membership, represented AT&T in giving greetings at the gala. Dan Howle spoke on behalf of Eli Lilly.
Other sponsors included Comcast, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Aratani Foundation, UPS, Norman and Deni Mineta, National Education Association, U.S. Navy, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, David and Carol Kawamoto, Annie E. Casey Foundation, George and Nobuko Azumano, and GEICO.
Groups that purchased tables or made other significant donations: University of Maryland Asian American Studies Program, JACL Eastern District Council, JACL DC Chapter, Japanese American Veterans Association, Caesar’s Entertainment, Dr. Craig Uchida, John Tagami and Roberto Llames, UNITEHERE, Red Cross, Paramount, CBS, Larry and Anne Oda, and Donna Cole.
JACL National Board members who were present in addition to Kawamoto and Lin were Larry Oda, Gail Sueki, Stephanie Nitahara, Chip Larouche and Toshi Abe. Past JACL national presidents who attended were Lillian Kimura, Floyd Mori and Oda.
Mori, who is also National JACL executive director and is expected to leave his position at the end of the year, was instrumental in starting the JACL Gala and expressed appreciation to all who participated. “We are extremely grateful to everyone who supported the JACL Gala this year and in the years prior. The galas have given the JACL the opportunity to honor some outstanding individuals, members of Congress, and corporations who have contributed to diversity and have made it a better world for all of us and our posterity. We salute our champions and hope this gala tradition will continue for many years to come.”