2009 Japanese-American Puget Sound Student Citation

Japanese American Puget Sound Students 1941-42
Bachelor of Arts
 Honoris Causa, nunc pro tunc

Yoshiko Fujimoto Sugiyama and Michiko Jinguji Kiyokawa; family members of Yoshiye Jinguji, Masayoshi Jinguji, Hugh Y. Seto, and Shigeo Wakamatsu: we honor you today and we welcome you home. You stand before us, and among us, as members of our family, on behalf of all of our classmates to whom we bid farewell in 1942, eloquent messengers of an ancient injustice, living lessons of the deceptions of history and the fierce dignity of forgiveness.

This is your college, and we are your colleagues. But time has made you our teachers and proclaimed you our mentors. In the face of your own betrayal, you have taught us the strength in family bonds. You have written on our hearts the enduring power of sacrifice and the potency of patience. You have acted out before us the tragedy that comes when our principles are abandoned and our values surrendered.  You have painted for us, in your lives of faithfulness, the bright beauty of returning treachery with honor. 

More than sixty years ago, the winds of war and the storm clouds of fear swept you from us, with thirty more students of Japanese heritage made unwilling exiles in your own country. You were students of biology and philosophy, literature and economy.  But you were made to read from the pages of suspicion and doubt, to learn the lessons of prejudice and hate. When the nation's proclamations of war called for casting you aside, you made your case as loyal Americans prepared to serve the country you loved. Your college cheered you, and your country banished you.

As you boarded the trains for a strange new land, you left Union Station for Point Defiance, then Salmon Beach and the Narrows Bridge, and on to Portland and Montana and beyond.  But you also left your college with a beautiful memory and a sign of grace. The cherry trees you planted on campus bloom today as beautiful embodiments of your lives and legacies. These trees have been the site of our annual remembrance of you, our classmates, decorated with your names at their roots and with thousands of origami cranes on their branches in the cold months of February, when you left us 67 years ago. Today, those cherry trees bloom with a new brilliance. The cranes take flight to deliver a belated gift of an injury made whole, a family reunited, a degree conferred.

President Thomas, on this day, the University of Puget Sound completes a broken circle, reaches out to heal an old wound by giving what was earned to those who earned it so many years ago.  For their unending dignity and resilience, for their unfailing grace and friendship, for their inspiring service and sacrifice to our nation, on recommendation of the faculty and with full support of the Board of Trustees, the thirty-six Puget Sound Japanese American Students of 1941 and 1942, those living and those who have passed away, stand before us as candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, honoris causa, nunc pro tunc.

Presented May 17, 2009, by Tamiko F. Nimura, Assistant Professor of English.