By Gary Mayeda, JACL national president
My dad used to say, just give me another year. The last time he said that was 12 years ago. I used to wish for a car, a new laptop, the coolest phone and, of course, a raise. But ever since both my mother and father have passed, I wish I could have had more time with them to talk about what life was like back in their days. I wish I could have done more to make their lives better.
Now, I find myself asking what I can do to make my wife and close relatives’ lives better. And I ask myself what I can do to make my JACL family and the organization better. JACL is like a huge family. We love, laugh, argue and fight. But at the end of the day (or meeting), we all want better for ourselves and our community.
We all have that one (or more than one) uncle that monku’s about everything. You didn’t cook the rice right; you don’t call me enough; you gave away my teriyaki recipe. The simple truth is that we do this to make things better. It’s strange how we are so hard on ourselves. Maybe we are trying to make ourselves better at the same time.
In the past year, I was very fortunate to have a very active year — being interviewed on television on Robert Handa’s show “Asian Pacific America” in San Jose, giving comments to ABC7 news reporter David Ono while in Washington, D.C., participating in the last Asian American event at the White House and holding a press conference when the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel threw the slant-eye gesture at the Dodgers’ Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the MLB World Series.
The year also included attending JACL chapter events, speaking at the opening of “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II” at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, attending the JACL National Convention in Washington, D.C., and being a chaperone at the winter Kakehashi trip. All experiences were some of the highlights of the year. It was a lot, and I still wished for more.
I was also interviewed by many high school students who wanted to know more about redress and the Japanese American incarceration for their history project. They all picked an event that was more than 60 years before they were born as the topic on which they wanted to do a report. Of all the historical events in American history, the students picked something my dad went through. And still I wish more students would pick this topic.
The new year is upon us, and I have some old wishes to renew. I want to continue to raise the profile and visibility of JACL. Speaking at events is one way. I’m asking the membership to help me connect with anyone you think would be good for JACL. I’ve met a great many people and have strengthened relations with other like organizations. Now that we have our new Executive Director David Inoue, he is really taking to task with furthering those relations.
We made ends meet last year, but we got lucky. We need the help of every district, chapter and member to draw attention to the core causes of JACL. We must let our membership know that we are all working extremely hard at furthering the programs and mission of JACL in order to ensure that disenfranchised sectors of our community are given a voice to be heard and counted.
In addition, the National Youth/Student Council continues to hold youth summits all across the U.S., where they are reaching out to hundreds of young people to develop leadership skills to be ready to frame the discussion of Asian Americans and receive the baton in governance of JACL.
We need your time, talents and treasures. Can you volunteer your time to make mochi or read scholarship applications? Can you offer your special skills to a project in need? Can you give generously to this 89-year-old organization that reaches the young and old in almost every state in the U.S.? Everyone can find something to donate.
And finally, I wish to improve on the work I did last year and do better. I wish to make my parents proud knowing what they sacrificed in raising me to make my life better and that of many others.
I am here simply as your national president. This is my passion — to volunteer on behalf of all of us to further the cause of JACL. As a former national president once told me, “This is the best job I will never get paid for.” This is the spirit of volunteerism.