By: Rhianna Taniguchi
This may have been the 42nd Japanese American Citizen’s League’s National Convention, but for me it was a first. The convention held in Bellevue, Washington on July 5-8th of 2012 held many firsts for me actually. It was the first time I gathered with Japanese Americans who were passionate and professional visionaries. But of course, coming to convention held many firsts even for those who have been apart of JACL for decades.
The Vision Award Recipient received a standing ovation at the Youth Luncheon not only for his work, but also for his humble and powerful speech. Gene Kim, Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has set the standard for JACL youth. He spoke of an unconventional path to Washington as well as the willpower to get up and do the hard work necessary for preserving liberty. It was the first time I had an Asian American in the political field that I could personally look up to.
The surprising amount of youth from the Portland chapter renewed their political and social awareness amongst our members with updates of current bills, cases, and action. Friendships between ages and states were forged or rekindled. This convention brought together a community of likeminded individuals collectively helping each other. The National Youth Council met on Sunday afternoon to discuss the growth of their leadership programs, future summits, and strategies to recruit more students.
The dvd documentary of late Governor Ralph Carr from the Sayonara Dinner was exceptionally well made. The political stance and action that Carr demonstrated while in office was commendable but cost him his political career. Carr’s personal work to help the Japanese American community made me quite emotional. He firmly believed that we must protect the Constitutional principles for "every man or we shall not have it to protect any man." His selfless actions and unwavering belief in freedom made him a hero for all Americans.
This year’s conference provided invaluable resources to young professionals and students including scholarship, internship, and career information. Being able to network with business, government, and community leaders who were invested in helping you succeed was an incredibly rare opportunity. It was my first real experience with JACL, but most definitely not my last.