Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Japanese American Citizen’s League Annual Installation Banquet
January 31, 2004
Good evening. Mona and I are honored to join you tonight.
We are honored to have served this great state the last seven years. Your support and encouragement have meant so much. We hope our success will help shatter the glass ceiling, allowing more Asian Americans and people of color to attain high positions in government and business.
I want to begin by thanking outgoing Seattle JACL President Tatsuo M.W. Nakata for his leadership in 2003. And I’d like to congratulate incoming president Bill Tashima. Good luck to you as you take the reins this year.
The Japanese American Citizen’s League has long been the vanguard in protecting the freedoms of Asian Americans. Through wave after wave of injustice, the JACL has led the fight to ensure that “liberty and justice for all” includes Asian Americans. And all Americans are better off for this leadership.
Our state has often been the center of civil rights battles involving Asian Americans. The Seattle chapter of the JACL has witnessed these waves of injustice firsthand, and has helped turn the tide.
In the late 1800s, Asian American immigrants began arriving here. They worked the hardest jobs for the least pay, building our state’s early economy and transforming it into the great state Washington is today. And they were denied citizenship. It wasn’t until 1952 that Japanese immigrants were allowed to become U.S. citizens.
The 1921 Alien Land Law made it illegal for non-citizens to own land, which included Japanese and other Asian immigrants. Voters finally repealed this law in 1966.
After Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 meant internment for 110,000 Japanese Americans. Japanese Americans were imprisoned in internment camps even as their fathers, brothers, sons and uncles fought for our country with honor and courage.
More than 40 years later, the United States finally issued an apology. Victims of the internment camps finally received monetary compensation for their losses. Of course, monetary compensation cannot repair broken dreams, lost decades, and ruined lives.
Throughout these waves of wrong, the JACL has been a strong, courageous voice for civil rights.
We all have a personal responsibility to fight against threats to equality and civil rights anytime and every time. As governor, I have seen that such threats are often closer than we might like to believe.
During my first year as governor, we enacted welfare reform. I supported welfare reform, but not until I made it clear that I would refuse to sign any proposal that didn't treat legal immigrants equally.
Washington state was the only state to ensure that past, present, and future legal immigrants would be accorded the same rights as any other person in need.
On September 11, 2001, our nation suffered a terrible tragedy. But it would have been a greater tragedy still if we had allowed the hate and violence of the terrorists to penetrate into the heart and soul of our society.
Instead, we found strength and hope in the rejection of intolerance. When a criminal few in Seattle tried to lash out in anger and hatred against members of an Islamic mosque, we said “No. Not in Washington state. Not in America.” People from across our state traveled to stand vigil and guard that mosque.
We refused to condone stereotyping, ignorance and violence. We refused to repeat the sins of the past in a time of national emergency.
As we remain vigilant against the dangers of terrorism, in our state and our nation, we must never allow ourselves to drift down the path that led to the Exclusion Acts and the Alien Land Law and the internment camps.
The vigilance against injustice has never been more important than it is right now, today.
Today, those who question our government’s policies are criticized for being “unpatriotic” by those who have forgotten what democracy means.
Today, our First Amendment freedoms – the rule of law, the right to an attorney, and trial by jury – are glibly dismissed in the name of a new, misguided brand of “patriotism.” .
Today, the PATRIOT Act grants sweeping powers and provisions that have high potential for abusing and undermining our civil liberties.
And today, our national government would expand this act with even more invasive legislation.
I commend the Japanese American Citizens League for your resolution opposing the Patriot Act. And I stand with you in opposing it.
We must stand together and raise our voices, loud and proud. We must make it crystal clear that we will never abdicate our basic freedoms.
At the site of the Dachau death camp from WWII, there is an inscription above a museum entrance. It reads: “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Let us stand together to tell this Administration that, “We have not forgotten the past.”
That’s why the work of the JACL is more important than ever before. Mona and I are honored to be with you and your great organization’s annual installation dinner.