There's a sacredness to this corner of land, one that transcends the old ferry landing and the dark beauty of Eagle Harbor: It's enshrined by 227 innocent men, women, and children uprooted and shipped away. 227 men, women, and children who lost their innocence sixty years ago, as the American creed embodied in Thomas Jefferson's words that "all men are created equal" was bitterly forsaken
We have heard the stories of Japanese-American internment, we know of the families ripped apart and the unspeakable suffering. But at times it feels like a ghost-so many decades ago, as though time waters down the anger and the injustice. It shouldn't. If anything, as the years roll into decades, we resolve to never forget. We resolve to right history's wrongs by shining a light on the injustices of the past.
Many internment survivors are with us today- let's take a moment to express our thanks and our admiration.
In February, I participated in the dedication of the Okubo Medical Clinic at Fort Lewis. James Okubo was a Washington native who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II for saving 25 lives over a two-day span. He was an Army medic in the celebrated 442nd division, the most decorated military unit in American history. On that day we honored a man who overcame the bitterness of Japanese-American internment-like so many gathered here-to serve his country, to enrich his community, and to advance the greater good of ALL his fellow Americans.
I can't imagine how a people - a community - overcomes such an intense sense of betrayal, of separation, of loss. Yet the Japanese-American community arose. Because having contributed to the greatness of America, it believes in the essential goodness and the promise of America. They took that lingering bitterness and sting and recast it. They insisted that we never forget that shameful legacy: That Americans must never whitewash history of its dark corners, of the bitter fruit of fear and racism and intolerance. Just as admirable, the Japanese-American community has led the struggle to ensure freedom, equality and justice for all in America.
I believe there's an important reason why this slice of the old Eagledale Ferry landing should be a national monument: Land-like nature itself-is indifferent to human suffering. It can't speak to us about who walked this earth, who said goodbye to a loved one or a friend sixty years ago-sad and uncertain of what lay ahead. Those emotions and those stories are embodied in our collective history, and it's that collective history that we preserve and honor today. And the monument will keep sharing those stories and emotions.
This summer I hope that families will pause and gather here to teach their children about the shame of Japanese-American internment, about everything that this ground symbolizes. On the East Coast, families go through a similar ritual at Civil War battlefields like Bull Run and Gettysburg. This place is a battlefield of sorts as well, one that's almost as difficult to imagine and absorb. No bayonets or "rebel yells," but so many, many broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken lives.
Today let's resolve to never again repeat the injustices of the past. Let's never forget.
Thank you. - Governor Gary Locke
I will now sign a proclamation declaring March 30th "Nikkei Memorial and Remembrance Day"
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