USC President Nikias,
I congratulate you for having the courage to award honorary degrees to those Nisei whose education was interrupted due Executive Order 9066 during World War II. It is never too late to right a wrong.
However, I was shocked to learn that USC has elected not to confer honorary degrees for the deceased simply because the recipients would not be present to accept the degrees. Please note that these degrees mean as much to the families of the deceased as they would have to your would-be alumni; families of the deceased will be in attendance.
While no single act can erase wartime hysteria and the divisiveness it created, these collective celebrations, commemorations and honorary degrees remind us, as a society, that we have changed. We have come to realize how significantly the Japanese American experience remains woven into the tapestry of American history.
It is with great passion that I implore you to consider honoring all of the wartime Nisei with honorary degrees and not just those who are still alive. Please be mindful that you have a fallen soldier, Henry Kondo, from the heralded 442nd Regimental Combat Team, E Company, among your unavailable students.
I do not have to explain the significance of his participation in the war and why he chose to prove his loyalty to America. However, will your university be the one to marginalize his sacrifice? I hope not.
Your symbolic gesture of goodwill represents more than your university’s history and the admission of wrongdoing; it identifies with the travesty at a national level and seeks to correct it. In a great many ways, those who experienced the injustices of World War II and have died along the way are very much “alive” today in the spirit of the Japanese American community.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Susan Uyemura, CEO & President
Japanese American Living Legacy