By Roberta Barton, Governor of the Central California District Council
When I was asked to consider serving as Central California District Governor two years ago, the opportunity to become more involved in JACL was exhilarating and at the same time a bit intimidating. I had only recently become a JACL member. There was in my mind a lot of catching up to do following a decades-long disconnect from my Japanese American heritage. The leap from new JACLer to District Governor seemed inconceivable. How would I know what to do as a District Governor? Who would train me? Where would I find the District Governor “instruction manual”?
As it turned out, I got by with a little help from my friends. Thankfully, Robert Shintaku stepped in to take on the District Governor responsibility while I “got my feet wet” serving as Vice Governor. It was truly training on the job; a two-year apprenticeship learning about the inner workings of JACL at both the chapter and district levels. This “learning by doing” approach gave me so much more insight than any instruction manual could have ever provided.
And now I begin my first term as District Governor. My CCDC friends have assured me of their continued support. CCDC will indeed need all hands onboard as we chart a course for the future.
There is a huge challenge ahead of us. With the district at a crossroads after several years of membership and officer attrition, a deep sense of urgency demands that we must find a way to rekindle the passion for JACL. I know this particular challenge confronts the organization at every level — chapter, district and national. Growing membership is a real concern, but it is not enough. Key to restoring vitality to JACL at the chapter and district levels is growing an active(ITAL), multigenerational(ITAL) membership base. For me as the district leader, this is a top priority.
I am confident that our collective district knowledge and expertise can find a way to achieve this goal. Member feedback in this endeavor is welcome and encouraged. I am especially interested in hearing from our Yonsei and Gosei: What can JACL do to make our organization more relevant and valuable to your generations? Our youth have the energy, innovation and leadership skills to take JACL to the next level.
Despite the roadblocks that inevitably crop up with any membership-based organization like ours, the Central California District Council forges ahead. Our financial base is stable. Our council remains committed. Our membership, though shrinking a bit, continues to be among the most passionate group of people you will ever have the pleasure of working with.
Our slate of events this year will kick off with the annual Day of Remembrance and Officer Installation Luncheon on Feb. 15. The Distinguished American Awards return to the luncheon with recognition of John Tateishi and Rev. Saburo and Marion Masada for their contributions to redress and education.
In late spring, the district will host the annual Shinzen Run at Woodward Park, which serves as a major fundraiser for our annual scholarship program. Scholarships will be awarded to Central Valley students at a ceremony in May, and the keynote speaker will be Dr. Joseph Castro, recently appointed president of California State University, Fresno.
New this year will be a special trip to the Military Intelligence Service Museum at the Presidio of San Francisco. The district is hosting a contingent of Central Valley World War II Nisei veterans on this trip. It is one way that we can recognize the sacrifices of our Japanese American servicemen and servicewomen, who fought so hard for our country despite the injustices and prejudice they faced on their home soil.
The year ahead will be busy indeed. I look forward to renewal, rebirth and reward that 2015 will bring.