CALIFORNIA - Good
evening, JACL. It’s an honor to have
been asked to speak to you on this commemoration marking the end of World War
II. It’s with deep regret that I’m not
able to share my thoughts with you in person.
But I send this message to let you know how important groups like the Japanese
American Citizens League are to me – both as a citizen and one who wears the
uniform of our great nation.
past serves to inform and shape our future, so it’s no exaggeration when I say
that World War II is the most important event in my life. My Japanese mother survived the devastation of wartime Japan and met
and married my father, an American Sailor who served in Japan in the late 1940s
and the 1950s. My father also had four brothers
who fought in the war, so I grew up hearing their stories about the exploits of
greatest generation from the moment I could form a memory.
All of them are gone now, but I can still
hear their stories of duty, sacrifice and courage. From my mom, I learned about the twin
concepts of gimu and giri – duty and obligation. She told me stories about the heroic deeds of
Japanese-American Nisei soldiers who fought so valiantly during World War II. Theirs is a legacy of service that has a special
resonance for me.
it's no exaggeration for me to say that I stand on the shoulders of
giants. For me to be where I am today – a
Japanese American four-star admiral, in command of all U.S. joint military
forces across half the earth – is because of trail blazers like the men and
women of the Military Intelligence Service … the 100th Infantry Battalion … the
442nd Regimental Combat Team … and the 1399th Engineer Construction
Battalion. In a world erupting with the
fires of war, these exceptional people rose above fear and prejudice to defend
something greater than themselves. Their
sacrifice blazed a trail towards freedom and justice for all mankind.
the outcome is nothing short of extraordinary.
Our bitter World War II enemies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan are
now new nations, and staunch allies of the United States – a fact I was
reminded of just a few weeks ago when the city of Nagaoka, Japan commemorated
the end of World War II by providing a spectacular fireworks display over the
waters of Pearl Harbor, the very place where the war tragically began for the
United States. It was a moving, joyful celebration
of shared peace.
commemorative events not only mark the courageous efforts of the Nisei warriors
and all those who served and supported the war effort, they also mark the 70
years of peace and friendship that have connected Japan and the United States,
our defense forces and our people. The
Pacific Ocean – once a fiery tableau of brutal warfare – has become a stable region
for our countries to enjoy peace and prosperity.
our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen work side-by-side
with our Japanese Allies, mutually committed to security throughout the
region. We enjoy the fruits of these
prosperous times because of the seeds sown by the men and women who sacrificed so much
seven decades ago.
nation draws her strength from those who served before us, and our nation will
continue to draw her strength from those who freely volunteer to serve and
defend the United States as members of our armed forces. Those who serve are part of an unbroken chain,
linking Americans, generation to generation.
strength as a nation also comes from citizens like each of you in the audience
today – Americans who are aware of the challenges, the opportunities and the
dangers we continue to face. As the
oldest and largest Asian Pacific American
civil rights organization, I know that the JACL strives to promote a world that
honors diversity by respecting values of fairness, equality and social justice. As someone who has personally benefited from
the important work conducted by the JACL – even before I was born – I can’t
thank you enough for promoting and preserving the proud heritage of the
Japanese American community.
When Dr. Benjamin Mays
delivered the eulogy at Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral, he said that Dr.
King’s unfinished work on earth must truly be our own.
Ladies and gentlemen,
that work falls to each of us. So as we
move forward together, I urge you to continue teaching future generations
about the treasured prize of freedom that was so dearly won 70 years ago. Thank you for all you do.
Biography - Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., U.S. Navy