New Year’s Reminiscing

January 26, 2018 • JACL, Politics

Chip Larouche

By Chip Larouche, PNWDC governor

Happy New Year everybody! I certainly hope this edition of the Pacific Citizen finds you healthy and looking forward to 2018.

As I was watching an NHK broadcast not too long ago, the network featured a number of family-owned businesses that had been around for more than 1,000 years. That piqued my curiosity, so I did a search on the Internet and found a traditional Japanese Inn called Hōshi Ryokan in the Awazu Onsen area of Komatsu, in the Ishikawa Prefecture. Having been founded in the year 718, it will celebrate its 1,300th birthday this year, with the hotel having been operated by 46 generations of the same family.

Well, here in America, we don’t have any institution that is even remotely in that ballpark age-wise, but it did get me thinking about how long JACL has been around.

At the national level, we all know that JACL was established in 1929, and we often boast in writing that we’re the oldest Asian American civil rights organization in America.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have two chapters who are even older than National JACL. Seattle JACL was established in 1921, and Portland JACL was established in 1928, with Portland celebrating its 90th birthday with a big “Birthday Bash” next month. Hopefully, I’ll get an invitation from Seattle when it celebrates its centennial in 2021 — not very long from now with time seeming to be flying by for me lately!

When I look at what it took to allow a Japanese Inn to thrive for 1,300 years, it seems the family did two significant things right. They took good care of their customers, and they adapted to the times when they needed to.

I think those are pretty good lessons for JACL as well. Of course, our customers are the membership. Something fairly unique to JACL is that our membership has some very young people, and we have many members who are over 100 years old!

That makes tasks like providing the Pacific Citizen to all of them a challenge because part of the spectrum of our membership prefers to read it on their smartphone as soon as it’s released to the publisher, and others still like to turn the pages of the newspaper as they sip their morning coffee or their green tea. Being able to do both those things introduces some financial challenges for JACL, which need to be solved.

JACL was born when immigration issues were in the forefront of most Japanese American Nisei as well as their Issei parents back in the early 1920s. Many of those issues have been overcome, and many of those solutions required the blood, sweat and tears by our membership.

As we look around though, there are many new immigrants who can probably learn a few lessons from JACL, which, in my opinion, is a great reason all by itself to keep this organization strong and vibrant like that 1,300-year-old ryokan.

One way to achieve that is to have chapters and the leadership in those chapters pay attention to their membership. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have the largest (Portland) and third-largest (Seattle) chapters in JACL — their membership has consistently been healthy, even though many of their 80- to 100-year-old members continue to pass away.

My observation as to why this can happen is that these chapters have lots of activities, and it’s not uncommon to see board members talking to nonmembers and inviting them to join, often with application envelopes that pop out of a purse or a website reference written on a program telling them how they can sign up online.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re still looking for that elusive New Year’s resolution that has nothing to do with losing a few pounds or fixing something that might not need fixing, how about saying some nice things about JACL in your neck of the woods to see if you can recruit one new member this year!

The 2018 National Convention will be in Philadelphia. I hope to see many of you there, and let’s enjoy their hospitality.

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