Board Member Message by: Susan Leedham
Bellevue, Washington, was the site of the 2012 JACL National Convention held July 5-9. I had the honor of representing our Portland Chapter.
The schedule was packed with National Council sessions, workshops, national officer elections, an oratorical contest and a great chance to meet members from other chapters around the country.
We passed the Power of Words, a very comprehensive document outlining the reasons for no longer using euphemisms like internment camp but instead to use the correct term, incarceration center, and also ways to educate the public.
We passed a very difficult budget eliminating two positions, but, hopefully, with the implementation of a JACL Planned Giving Program whereby you can include JACL at both the national and chapter level in your will or trust, we can replenish our treasury and bring back some of the much needed staff and fund programs.
Susan Leedham (left), Portland JACL co-president ,Chip Larouche (center), Pacific NW District Governor, and Mariko Newton (right), National Youth Student Council Representative vote during the second day of the National Council Session
Our treasurer, Chip Larouche, was honored with a much deserved Sapphire Pin. To qualify for this honor, you must have at least ten consecutive years of active service to JACL and at least five of those years must be at the district or national level. Chip was our co-president 2002-2004, and he is currently our Pacific Northwest District Governor. You see him at all of our community events, and he and his wife Setsy have been busy traveling to district and national meetings on both coasts of the US. Personally, I don’t know where he finds the time, as he works full time for the City of Lake Oswego. We are very fortunate to have Chip. And he joins his wife, Setsy Larouche, and Connie Masuoka, who have also been recipients of the Sapphire Pin.
Elections were also held for national office. Of note, David Lin is our new National President, and our own Mariko Newton was elected National Youth/Student Council representative.
We also heard from Priscilla Ouchida, our National Executive Director. We are fortunate to have her in Washington, D.C., advocating for not only Japanese Americans but civil rights for all. She emphasized that JACL is important and looked to by other advocacy groups because not only have we been a strong voice for many years, but we have the story vividly demonstrating when fear and prejudice took over and our government forgot that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are there to protect all of its citizens.
The highlight of the convention for me was the speech at the Youth Luncheon by Vision Award winner Gene Kim, Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). He gave a rousing speech describing his transformation from a very shy student at UC Berkeley whose career path shifted after taking an Asian studies class and doing some community volunteer work, to becoming the director of this very high-profile group in Washington, D.C. working with 42 members of Congress dedicated to addressing the needs and concerns of the API communities. He described how indeed Congress is dysfunctional and how he sometimes feels like giving up and going back to his life on the West Coast, but then he remembers all of our ancestors and the discrimination and hardships they endured so we could have a better life, and so he realizes that, yes, he can put on that suit and continue to fight the good fight, and that his challenges are not as great as what they overcame.
The next National Convention will be in Washington, D.C., in mid-July. It will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1988, also known as the Redress Bill. I hope some of you will be able to join in what promises to be a very inspirational and informative convention.