Rafu Staff Report
PALO ALTO — An online fundraising campaign has been established for the Fred Yamamoto Scholarship, named for a Palo Altan who was killed in action while serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.
Yamamoto’s name made headlines in recent weeks as the Palo Alto Board of Education sought to rename two junior high schools in the district after prominent local individuals. He was on the list of six finalists, but due to pressure from Chinese American parents who said that his name reminded them of wartime Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, other names were selected.
A Go Fund Me page launched on March 30 by Yamamoto’s supporters includes the following explanation:
“Fred Yamamoto was a Japanese American Palo Altan who faced racial adversity and forced incarceration during World War II. He was a youth leader who inspired others with his devotion to equality and community. A decorated soldier, he was killed in action fighting for American ideals of democracy and justice.
“The PAUSD Recommending School Names Advisory Committee strongly recommended that the PAUSD school district consider the inspirational legacy of this remarkable young man when selecting new names for our two middle schools. However, some community members expressed concerns about the negative association with the (unrelated) Admiral Yamamoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The school board, therefore, decided not to name a school in honor of Fred.
“This has been a difficult and painful issue, but also presents us with an opportunity to seek to build empathy and understanding. Fred’s message of faith in American democracy and justice, resilience in the face of discrimination and adversity, and devotion and service to community can be an inspiration to us all. With the blessing of his family, we are setting up a modest scholarship fund in Fred Yamamoto’s memory.
“At the close of the 2017/18 school year, we will use the donations to award and recognize a student (or students) who have demonstrated civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred’s spirit. (Depending on the sum raised, we might be able to keep the scholarship active for more than one year.)
“We believe this is an effort many in the community can come together to join: those who supported Fred’s nomination and those who opposed it. For anyone who was inspired by Fred Yamamoto’s service and sacrifice and wants to work to keep his memory alive: Thank you!”
Yamamoto himself was quoted as saying, “Let us not be pessimistic, nor overly optimistic, but let us keep faith- faith in the dignity and goodness of man.”
As of Thursday evening, $12,510 had been raised from 81 people, far surpassing the goal of $4,420 — a symbolic amount representing the 442nd RCT.
Posted comments included statements of support from local Chinese Americans:
Steven Lee: “As a third-generation Chinese American and a Palo Alto human relations commissioner, I was strongly in favor of the committee’s recommendation to name a school after Fred Yamamoto, and was disappointed by both the opposition raised by certain members of my Chinese American community as well as the decision by the school board not to name a school after Fred Yamamoto.
“We have to move forward, however, and I am committing myself to be part of the larger and continued discussion, which this incident exposed, that we desperately need in this community, to listen certainly, to educate and correct unconscious biases or historical prejudices when necessary, and to ultimately take action when needed to keep Palo Alto a truly safe, welcoming and inclusive community, where no one is unfairly judged by their name, ethnicity or their other identities, even when such action may be deemed ‘controversial’ or ‘divisive’ by those who oppose such action.”
Lan Gao: “I was one of the residents against renaming our middle schools after Fred Yamamoto due to confusions it might cause, but I’m by no means against honoring Fred as an individual who is a patriot and a role model for our younger generations.”
Beiguang Zhang: “Fred is a perfect example to young guys of our community. Please accept our donation, it’s only an expression of respect to him and his family from a Chinese family.”
James Lin: “Let’s use this opportunity to show Asian is also important part of this great community. Our love and contribution to this country should be promoted. I hope this will be a beginning! We need more great stories of immigrants from China, Korea and other countries in Asia. We need to show unity.”
For more information, go to: www.gofundme.com/fred-m-yamamoto-scholarship-fund