First Prize, Poem, High School
Punahou School, Honolulu
Junior (2016-17 Academic School Year)
Seventy six years ago we were almost defeated
Held captive in our country and severely maltreated
Thrown into horse stalls and makeshift homes
Places that no human should have to go.
Seventy six years ago we were incarcerated
Forced to pack our belongings and be relocated
Our homes, our jobs, and our lives created
Taken by those who Japanese-hated.
Seventy six years ago a decision was made
Executive Order 9066 with discrimination conveyed
America’s feelings that we were disloyal
Arrested and put into camps without even a trial.
Seventy six years ago 120,000 men, women, and children
Out of “military necessity” were deemed to be villains
Behind barbed wire were forced to remain
For up to four years, unjustly contained.
Seventy six years ago something else happened
Something still hard for me to imagine
The 442 and the One Puka Puka
Decided to fight, decided to take action.
With duty and honor and responsibility in mind
They fought for their country, for equality of mankind
Although they were sometimes shorter and lighter
History remembers them as some of the greatest fighters.
With the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor” they charged into battle
With teamwork, in unison, they were able to handle.
It wasn’t easy and many, many lives were lost
But each of them fought, no matter the cost.
Sometimes these great sacrifices are too easily overlooked
In lectures and presentations and boring history books.
But it’s not about statistics or data or facts
It’s about the belief, the courage, the brave individual acts.
Somehow combining into larger than one
Look what these people, these soldiers, these citizens have done
It’s about courage, about bravery, about audacity and spirit
The fact that one’s loyalty doesn’t depend on appearance.
Seventy six years ago our country was in turmoil
And the freedom of American peoples was close to being foiled.
Sadly nowadays, still, freedom is not entirely reached
There is still racism and violence, equality is still incomplete.
Yet the Japanese Americans during World War II
Proved to her, to him, and to you
That race shouldn’t determine one’s loyalty
That the way one looks is not their entirety.
I am a Japanese American and proud to be so
I am proud of my heritage and I hope that it shows.
To me, the purple hearts, the ribbons, and the veterans
Show us that we should treat each other with love and with reverence.
Seventy six years ago a good fight was fought
And I can only hope that it wasn’t for naught
To me, the actions will never be forgotten
A legacy made, a promise still wanted.
My name is Tamara Sato and I am a half-Japanese half-Chinese American. Growing up in Hawaii, I have gotten the opportunity to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the presence of Japanese Americans during World War II. Even though I am a fourth-generation Japanese American, listening to my grandparents’ stories about the internment and mistreatment of Japanese Americans during that time still brings a personal sadness to my heart. I want to extend a sincere thank you to all of the Japanese Americans who, through valiant and heroic acts, allowed me to be proud of who I am.