DOR ground-breaking remarks

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By: Dale Ikeda

Feb. 19, 2007

Good morning. On behalf of the Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial project committee, let me add my welcome to this Day of Remembrance marking the 65th anniversary of Executive Order No. 9066. Our theme is “hate, healing, honor and hope.” In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the empire of Japan, fear, suspicion and hatred was mis-directed towards Americans of Japanese ancestry and resulted in their unjust internment by their own government for nearly three years in violation of their constitutional rights. The passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 providing for a presidential apology to the internees went a long ways to help heal old wounds. This memorial is to honor the Issei and Nisei, the first- and second-generation Japanese Americans, for their perseverance, sacrifice and courage. They kept faith in the American dream, proved their loyalty to this great country and paved the way for a better future for their children and future generations. This memorial will serve as a reminder of the injustice of the past, which we hope will avoid similar mistakes now and in the future.

The memorial will be known as “Remembrance Plaza.” At today’s ground-breaking ceremony, we will dedicate California Registered Historical Landmark No. 934. That will represent a down payment on the committee’s promise to participate in this project with the city of Fresno. Paul Saito will have more to say about the design of Remembrance Plaza next.

The project and the historical significance of the site has been unanimously recognized and approved by the Fresno Historic Preservation Commission, planning commission and city council. The committee especially thanks the city council for its strong support of this project. That support gave the committee the leverage and encouragement to press forward. We believe the current plan is respectful of the history of the site, is located in a prominent place and will permit the community to remember the history the site represents.

Remembrance Plaza will include an interpretive wall telling a truly American story of a group of Americans triumph over adversity. A storyboard will include the issuance of Executive Order No. 9066 and the forced removal of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the west coast and their detention during World War II. A storyboard will describe the exploits of the Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) who volunteered from America’s concentration camps to fight for freedon in Europe and the Pacific. A storyboard will explain the constitutional issues internment raised. In the Korematsu case, the United States Supreme Court upheld the policy of internment on the grounds of “military necessity.” Although Fred Korematsu’s criminal conviction was vacated in the 1980’s the supreme court decision remains on the books as the law of the land. A storyboard will explain the findings and recommendations of the commission on wartime relocation and internment of civilians. The commission found there was not justified, that a “grave injustice” was committed on Japanese Americans as a result of “war hysteria, racial prejudice and lack of political leadership.” A storyboard can acknowledge the nation’s recognition of its mistake by the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It might have a photo of President Reagan signing the redress legislation with his comments, “what is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit a wrong. Here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.” I also envision a storyboard with the letter from President George Herbert Walker Bush stating, in part, ‘words alone cannot restore lost years or erase painful memories. … in enacting a law calling for restitution and offering a sincere apology, your fellow Americans have, in a very real sense, renewed their traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.”

We are pleased to have Ambassador Philip Sanchez and David Rodriquez here to represent the community of Pinedale. Remembrance Plaza will also honor this community and remember the significance of the site as the location of the Sugar Pine Lumber Company, one of the largest and most technologically advanced lumber companies in the world in its day, and Camp Pinedale, a military base during World War II. Ambassador Sanchez is on our advisory committee. I look forward to Ambassador Sanchez’ remarks. David is a valued member of our committee and is co-chair of today’s event.

The Japanese American story remains relevant. We are pleased to express our support for the Muslim- and Arab-American communities. JACL was the first civil rights organization to stand up for those communities after the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001. In its press release the next day, JACL National President Floyd Mori stated, “we urge citizens not to release their anger on innocent American citizens simply because of their ethnic origin, in this case Americans of Arab ancestry. While we deplore yesterday’s acts, we must also protect the rights of citizens. Let us not make the same mistake as a nation that were made in the hysteria of World War II following the attack at Pearl Harbor.”

By preserving the Pinedale story, we hope to teach a lesson in history. The constitution alone does not guarantee perfection in the protection of the rights of our people. It takes people to ensure “justice for all.” Therefore, it is the duty and obligation of each generation “to strive to form a more perfect union” for ourselves and for the sake of our children.

Let me close by reading the full inscription on Landmark No. 934:

Pinedale Assembly Center

This memorial is dedicated to over 4,800 Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined at the Pinedale Assembly Center from May to July 1942. This was an early phase of the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II pursuant to Executive Order No. 9066. They were detained without charges, trial or establishment of guilt. May such injustice and suffering never recur.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 934

Plaque placed by California state parks in cooperation with the City of Fresno, Japanese American Citizens League and central California Nikkei Foundation

February 19, 2007

Thank you.