The 2020 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance program was held on Saturday, February 15, 2020, at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.
The following is the Manzanar Committee’s statement on the demands by the JANM Board of Trustees that the recorded remarks by United States Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i; you can watch the video below) not be shown during the program.
The 2020 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance Committee asked United States Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i) to be our keynote speaker. She was unable to attend, but sent a video message that was going to be shown during the program. But upon viewing the video, the Board of Trustees of JANM demanded it be removed from the program. The majority of organizations, including the Manzanar Committee, disagreed with JANM’s decision. We believed the video was a very fitting summary of the crisis of democracy facing our country.
The Senator’s office has granted the various organizations the right to post it on their respective web sites. We are making the Senator’s remarks available, largely because she is the highest-ranking Japanese American elected official in our country and a leading voice in the fight to preserve our democracy.
The Manzanar Committee is also posting below the statement from JANM Board Chair Norman Mineta explaining why the JANM Board wanted the video removed from the program.
At the Day of Remembrance commemoration on Saturday, February 15, JANM made the decision to move a video message by Senator Mazie Hirono online, rather than screen it during the event. We have the utmost respect for Senator Hirono, and for her courageous commitment to democracy and civil rights. In recognition of this, JANM conferred upon her our Award of Excellence at our annual dinner in 2018.
JANM was founded on the principle that what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II must never be repeated and that no other group should be similarly targeted. We are keenly aware of how easily divisiveness and discrimination create barriers and pit citizen against citizen. We are therefore deeply committed to encouraging dialogue and the inclusion of all voices and opinions, regardless of partisan position or political affiliation. We are also committed to protecting civil rights, especially those that defend against discrimination and prejudice. However, as a nonprofit museum, we cannot take a partisan position, and we believe that we can be most effective when we do not. We were also made aware that the inclusion of the video might have resulted in one of our sister organizations that participated in the organizing committee having to withdraw, which was not an outcome that we wanted to see. In this spirit, we requested that changes be made to the program to allow all to feel welcomed. We also specifically informed attendees that the video would be made available online on the web sites of other organizing committee members.
Another key factor in our decision was that in the uncertainty of the current political climate, we cannot ignore the reality that the Museum runs the risk of placing our nonprofit status and our ability to operate in jeopardy if we are considered partisan. Moreover, JANM has been a leading advocate for the reauthorization of federal funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program which has provided over $29 million to support countless Japanese American organizations in their efforts to preserve our history, our historic sites, and artifacts. By taking an overtly partisan position, we compromise our ability to play a leadership role in this effort but more importantly the funding on which many organizations rely to preserve our history.
LEAD PHOTO: Screenshot from video (see below) featuring remarks by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono for the 2020 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance program.
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