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JACL Announces National Board Candidates

By June 21, 2024July 3rd, 2024No Comments

The JACL Nominations Committee announces that the following candidates are seeking election for national office at the organization’s upcoming National Convention in Philadelphia, July 10-14.

[Editor’s note: Subsequent to publication in the newsprint edition of the Pacific Citizen, Matthew Asada withdrew his candidacy because of work-related reasons.]

  • Larry Oda, president
  • Matthew Asada and Ryan Yoshikawa, VP of General Operations
  • Seia Watanabe, VP for Public Affairs
  • Dominique Mashburn, VP for One Thousand Club, Membership and Services
  • Jonathan Okamoto, secretary/treasurer

No candidates have filed for the position of vp for planning and development, National Youth/Student Council chairperson or National Youth/Student Council representative.

Other individuals interested in running for national office can view the forms on the JACL 2024 Convention website ( to view the procedure for running from the floor of the convention. Individuals are encouraged to contact Eric Langowski at prior to the convention.

Following are candidate statements:

LARRY ODA, JACL National President

Larry Oda

My name is Larry Oda, and I am a candidate for JACL National President. I have been a member of JACL for over 50 years and have experienced its growth and influence. Because of the struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments of our predecessors, we now enjoy the credibility and stature that comes with a valued organization.

To be relevant in our second hundred years, we need to be vigilant and assertive in our pursuit of equity in America. We are small in numbers but large in influence. We must continue our presence socially and politically to inspire our fellow Americans to strive for a nation that values all its citizens and cooperate in advancing us all.

I am the first in my family to attend college. I studied to be a teacher, but circumstances led me to other endeavors. I’ve always been interested in things mechanical, and tinkering with cars was a natural path. As I evolved along the continuum of experiences and learned different technologies, I also had mentors that inspired me to pay it forward. There are many examples in my family where they’ve shared what little they had with those who had less, and it taught me that this is what you do.

The heavy lifting has been done for us to position ourselves in the nation, and unless we continue to pursue the vision of JACL and maintain our strength, we may slowly falter and fail, and the story of our contributions will be lost to history.

To continue to be relevant, we must make a concerted effort to recruit new members, train our youth to be effective leaders and encourage our members to support JACL in their legacy plans. By doing these things, we will ensure that our stories will continue to be told.


MATTHEW ASADA, JACL VP of General Operations

Matthew Asada

For the past two years, I have taught undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Southern California. I returned to a state that my California-born Nisei grandparents had been forced to leave, moreover, to teach at a university that they were never able to attend.

While here, I dug into their Japanese American story — just one of 125,000 incarceration stories — to learn about how my 16-year-old grandfather’s personal appeal to the U.S. attorney general freed his father from detention and how the family lost their farm in the 19th year of a 20-year mortgage. After relocating to Seabrook, N.J., my family never spoke about either, and it was only after my grandparents’ passing that we discovered these stories.

As an American diplomat — the first to come from the unique Japanese American community in Seabrook Village — for two decades, I have worked to make the U.S. Foreign Service more reflective of the diversity of our country. As the elected union leader of the 15,000-person bargaining unit and the head of the 1,000-person Asian American employee association, I have worked with congress, the media and external civil rights organizations to create a new statutory employee right to improve national security and strengthen civil rights protections.

I am now running for JACL national office to strengthen JACL as a platform for community building, storytelling and advocacy. I’m a fourth-generation JACL member whose family has long been involved at the Seabrook chapter level. After conclusion of my father, Michael Asada’s, active-duty military service, he returned to Seabrook and most recently served as Eastern District governor.

If elected by you, I look to build on that familial legacy and contribute my diplomatic, nonprofit association and labor and educational experiences to JACL at the national level.


RYAN YOSHIKAWA, JACL VP of General Operations

Ryan Yoshikawa

Hello fellow members of the JACL! I am Ryan Yoshikawa, the current Pacific Southwest District governor, and I am excited to announce my candidacy for the position of VP for general operations.

I have a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, Irvine, and am a product engineer for a medical device company in Irvine. I am so fortunate to have grown up in sunny Southern California for my entire life, surrounded by great leaders in the Asian American community.

I aim to honor these great pioneers by improving the JACL’s focus on cultivating leaders through engaging and educational programming. Programs that highlight the JACL’s amazing leaders and staff, as well as provide opportunities for new voices to be utilized, are the key to continuing to improve our communities across the nation.

As PSW district governor, I was able to aid in planning and coordinating the 2023 National Convention in Little Tokyo.

Despite many unforeseen challenges, our goal of creating a unique showcase of Southern California and its community was a success and shined a light on our membership, ideals and future of the organization.

As VP of General Operations, I plan to utilize my engineering background to methodically organize our procedures and center our organizational goals. I believe focusing on getting more members and nonmembers to participate in the convention is a key way to engage more people and inform them of what we want to achieve.

I want to thank all the people who have inspired and lead me to becoming the person I am today and for giving me the support to encourage me to take this opportunity of better serving the JACL and our AANHPI community. I hope to earn your votes of confidence at the 2024 National Convention and enjoy spending time with you all!


SEIA WATANABE, VP for Public Affairs

Seia Watanabe

Hello! I am Seia Watanabe, the current VP for Public Affairs, and I am running for re-election. I work for the Little Tokyo Community Council, a community coalition in Little Tokyo made up of small business owners and stakeholders, as their social media coordinator, and I work in the independent film industry as a producer and assistant director.

I previously served as the PSW District youth representative on the NY/SC, president of CSULB Nikkei Student Union and currently help the Manzanar Committee as an organizer for Katari: a place-based educational program that educates college students about Manzanar.

I came into this position with the goal of maintaining the JACL’s position as a leader within the civil rights community and to help modernize workflow and communication channels within the organization, but found that coming out of a tumultuous time, there was much more work to be done internally in order for the JACL to restabilize and grow.

My two years on the board has opened my eyes to how expansive our work is as an organization, but also the areas that need more support. In our modern age, we need communication pipelines and functions that allow our members to act fast on pressing issues and make their voices heard.

At the same time, the democratic process of our organization is what makes us a strong and united community. I believe that my experience will allow me to help our national board move forward and find a new balance that allows our organization to adapt to modern-day needs, while staying true to our mission. If re-elected, I would build off my newfound knowledge of the challenges we face as an organization to help the JACL enter a new and productive era.


DOMINIQUE MASHBURN, VP for One Thousand Club, Membership and Services

Dominique Mashburn

My name is Dominique Mashburn, and I am running for the position of national vp for One Thousand Club, membership, and services. I currently work at Beacon Day School and Learning Institute for Autism and Related Disorders as the executive administrator and public relations. I studied Earth and environmental science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and am currently obtaining an additional degree in business with a concentration in project management.

In my role at Beacon Day School, I have dedicated my career to advocating for students with moderate to severe disabilities, particularly autism and related disorders. My passion for helping others extends beyond my professional life, as I come from a family deeply committed to the values of care and support. This background has instilled in me a strong sense of responsibility and a commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of others.

I strongly urge the JACL to focus on disability rights and accessibility. The Japanese American community, like any other, includes individuals with disabilities who deserve to have their voices heard and their needs met. Ensuring that our events, programs and initiatives are inclusive and accessible to all members is not just a legal obligation but a moral imperative. By prioritizing disability rights, we can create a more inclusive organization that truly represents and serves all its members.

One of the most significant challenges the JACL faces is addressing the intersectionality of our diverse community’s needs. As we continue to advocate for civil rights and social justice, we must also recognize and address the unique challenges faced by members with disabilities. By doing so, we can strengthen our organization and foster a sense of belonging and empowerment for everyone.

I am committed to bringing vivacity and growth to our membership while ensuring that our organization remains inclusive and responsive to all its members’ needs.

Thank you for your support.


JONATHAN OKAMOTO, Secretary/Treasurer

Jonathan Okamoto

It would be an honor to continue serving in the role of secretary/treasurer for a new term.

The past year has allowed me to build a much clearer view of the inner workings of JACL finance, along with some of the incumbent shortcomings.

Fortunately, my past job experiences and personality traits are tailored to resolve and improve upon the problematic issues that may be hampering our growth as an organization.

The leadership roles I’ve taken over the years have allowed me to identify potential areas of improvement and remediate the processes and procedures to realize the positive outcomes.

The immediate issue that JACL currently faces is one of finance and one that many organizations grapple with. Expenses are greater than revenue. The challenge that lies ahead is how to increase revenue, decrease expenses or, more realistically, both.

Currently proposed in the 2025/2026 budget are solutions that add a very high level of transparency to where our revenues come from and where our funds are spent.

Visibility allows our members to ask pointed and critical questions on spend. It also highlights obvious areas of waste and potential opportunities to further save.

While a reduction in spend is often “simple,” such as fewer events or reduced rent, the JACL situation is complex. The largest expense, by far, is JACL staff costs. The challenge is how to bridge the budget gap without negatively impacting the lives of our people.

My vision will be to use the detailed data we’ve collected from staff experiences, validate the accuracy of the data with actual 2024 financials, identify inefficient operational areas within JACL, optimize those processes with technology and use the reclaimed hours to reinvest into new activities that benefit chapters.

The collective technology and marketing knowledge within the national staff can be focused to better train chapters on how to create marketing campaigns for their local areas. Campaigns that build new interest in JACL and its activities. Campaigns that ultimately seek to grow membership, grow membership dollars and actively promote the good that JACL offers to the community.

If re-elected, my vision will be to work with the National Board to strengthen JACL with a solid financial foundation from which to continue moving forward.

JACL National Board elections will take place on July 13.