A Letter from Ann Nora
June 2, 2006
Since you are family or friends of the Hiramis, I invite you to share in the poignant joy and pride we will be feeling at tan extraordinary commencement ceremony. I am including my letter to the editor that was published last week in the Plymouth and Canton Observer newspapers.
I know you will enjoy reading another letter copied on the back of this note about a progressive and visionary California state law. I think you will be impressed, as I was, with the profound eloquence in closing from the state educations superintendent. I just learned of the laws two months ago. As a result, my father, Soichiro "Pat" Hirami, age 80, and my uncle, Akira Hirami, who will soon be age 79, will receive their diplomas from North Hollywood Hight School. This was their neighborhood high school until February 1942, when FDR ordered all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast into concentration camps.
The news of these diplomas was my special gift to my dad and uncle. The excitement, my mom and I have decided that we will travel with my dad to California, and my uncle will travel there from Denver! (My Aunt Mary was younger and graduated in Denver in 1947.) Imagine — they will march in cap and gown at graduation with the 2006 class — 62 years and 61 years late respectively! Amazing!
To top it off, guess whom the principal invited to be the commencement speaker? My loving sister Eileen guessed Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HA)! He is a hero to the Japanese-American community, as he should be for all Americans. I have already had the honor of meeting him twice! North Hollywood High School has invited ME to be their commencement speaker! As a social studies teacher, and a daughter, I am overwhelmed with anticipation. So, on Thursday, June 29, at exactly 9:30 local time (6:30pm PST), please raise a glass and toast my dad and uncle, and wish me luck. Without question, it will be a high point of my life. I am not worried to speak in front of 600 graduates and 3,000+ people. I do however, want to deliver a winner.
My grandparents, Kiyoyoshi and Yazuna (Minami), never got to see this joyous occasion which most parents take for granted in their own communities. They lot everything during WII and started over. My grandfather waited 33 years to be allowed to become a citizen in 1957. My grandmother died in 1952 at age 46 after multiple strokes induced by the stress, fear, and insecurity. She NEVER was granted the right to vote in her entire life, and her death certificate lists her citizenship, "unknown," They will certainly be looking down from Heaven, beaming with pride for their sons, and grateful that their country continues to heal itself and the wounds it has caused, three generations later.
Being the child of a survivor of a concentration camp has everything to do with my identity and values. Each year my passion grows as a defender of civil rights. I am thrilled to continue to teach students to defend their rights and the rights of others, in the hope that Americans will never even come close to justifying and suffering anything like this disgrace again.