UPDATED:  February 27, 2011 10:42 PM
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Envoy Thanks Japanese Americans for their Solidarity at NJAMF Event

By: Jennie L. Ilustre

Washington–About a hundred people came to this year’s 13th Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk, in solidarity with Japan after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. The morning sun peeked in and out, a drizzle followed at one point–a mirror of the optimism and sadness felt by everyone, and the silent tears.

            Japanese Ambassador to the U.S Ichiro Fujisaki, always eloquent and gracious, thanked the Japanese American people for “standing with us in such a difficult moment in our history,” referring to expressions of support and fundraising campaigns for the relief effort.

He also thanked “the people around the world...People are extending so much goodwill and contributions, which we badly need.” He stressed Japan ’s determination and optimism against all odds: “As you know, Japan is a strong country. One day we will overcome this.” (His complete remarks are in the Japan Update section.)

Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the ambassador’s remarks were “elegant and eloquent, and give us much hope.” Ambassador Fujisaki left after his remarks, to return to his busy desk.

The event, said Executive Director Gale Awaya McCallum of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), raises awareness of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans and nationals–as well as “the vigilant role everyone must play in upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

It took place at the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism here on April 2. Freedom Walk is an official event of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Relevant Lesson

Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru said the event also honors the Japanese Americans for their service in the war, “those who stood up for our rights,” and those who “protest about constitutional rights to this day.” The past continues to be relevant today, he said, citing the Arab American experience.

Noting the current move by some to eliminate citizenship as a birth right, he stressed the need to stand with immigrants who come to this country “in search of a better life.” He also said, “We can’t forget the lessons of the past. Few stood with us to defend our rights.”

Gerald Yamada, president of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), event co-sponsor, said “the crane at the Memorial is still in barbed wire,” adding, “It’s up to us” to insure the legacy endures. Memorial Architect Davis A. Buckley called the site “hallowed ground.” For his speech, visit www.davisbuckley.com.

            NJAMF’s McCallum said the event was special: “Next year is the 100th anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms.” She noted the Cherry Blossoms remind us of life’s fragility, and urged a “moment of silence” for Japan .

            NJAMF Chair Craig Uchida thanked the event’s sponsors and volunteers. The program opened with the Nen Daiko Drum Ensemble and the Ekoji Buddhist Temple . Retired Lt. Col. Mark Nakagawa and Lt. Janelle Kuroda were the Color Guards at the presentation of colors, joined by Mt. Airy Baptist Church and Troop & Pack 508, led by Troop leader Patricia Lewis. David Fujioka led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Dr. Noriko Hunter sang the National Anthem.

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