The Work of JACL Continues …
Uncertainty often accompanies periods of transition unless it is used as a time to refocus and rededicate our commitment in ways that will advance efforts to carry out JACL’s core mission.
JACL National President David Lin and members of the National Board have asked me to serve in the interim until a new JACL executive director is selected.
I accepted because after all the years I’ve served on the JACL staff, I continue to believe this organization has the capacity to be a leader, especially in areas such as education and youth development, while still tending to issues of social justice that have defined our history and truly improved the lives of Japanese Americans.
There will be challenges, even in this transition period. Within the last two weeks, JACL has lost the services of two full-time professional staff members. We wish the best to Priscilla Ouchida and Christine Munteanu.
And yet, even with their resignations, we haven’t decreased our program portfolio and activities, placing even more responsibility on existing staff to perform.
So, what’s on our program horizon, and what can you expect from your national staff? Our national convention is scheduled for July 11-14 in Las Vegas. Our goal will be to successfully conduct the business of JACL where the National Council will elect new officers, debate policy issues, recognize our awardees, find renewal in the inspiring words of our presenters and, importantly, approve a biennial budget, which proposes to reduce staff positions even further, a prospect that will clearly weaken our organization.
After the convention and extending into early August, we will implement an education program funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, where we will host two weeklong sessions with 72 teachers from throughout the country.
The teachers will tour the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and attend presentations given by experts on many aspects of the incarceration, including former incarcerees. They will also visit Santa Anita and Manzanar to bear witness to those places of confinement during World War II.
In September, we will begin conducting the next the Kakehashi program, a unique opportunity for students and young adults to gain insight into a variety of fields including the culture, politics and economics of Japan.
Beginning with trips in September, the program will host 200 participants in three groups extending into early 2017.
Throughout the fall, our civic engagement program, funded through a grant from the Coulter Foundation, will challenge our chapters and members to engage in voter registration, voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts to be active participants in citizenship responsibilities.
Of course, there are additional important programs such as scholarship, NY/SC, Legacy Fund grants, leadership, and the Smithsonian project beckons as a centerpiece in 2017, when we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the signing of E.O. 9066.
I am hopeful the JACL National Board will move quickly with its search and selection process to identify and hire a JACL executive director.
In the meantime, to see us through this period of transition, we have a staff composed of experienced and committed individuals including Patty Wada, Tomiko Ismail, Stephanie Nitahara, Matt Walters, Mariko Fujimoto and Mei Kuang. In addition, we value our energetic fellows and interns, Merissa Nakamura, Emil Trinidad, Malin Ouk and Jennifer Kaku.
There is much to do. We need your cooperation. The work of JACL continues.
Interim JACL Executive Director and JACL Midwest Regional Director