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honorary degree ceremony puts it all in perspective

Earlier this week, nearly 70 years after an executive order called for the unjust relocation of coastal Japanese Americans, San Diego State held the first Nisei Honorary Degree Ceremony to honor those students whose higher education was interrupted by Executive Order 9006.

Bob H. Suzuki, a formerly-interned Japanese American and President Emeritus of Cal Poly Pomona, offered a poem that put the entire event in perspective and made me realize why this ceremony doesn’t just impact Japanese Americans, citizens caught up in the war, or families of relocated students; it impacts all of us.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I did not speak out because I was not a Catholic.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

-Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1946

We still live in a world where discrimination rules certain groups and sitting back until we’re the victim is no way to make a change in the world. The degree ceremony represents a step forward to offer retribution to this group of students and honor their accomplishments. Projects such as this provide hope that a voice can be found for persecuted groups who deserve honor and respect for what they have gone through.

Although their time at SDSU was interrupted, a majority of the students persevered, earned their college degrees, and went on to create thriving businesses, raise healthy families, and pursue their dreams. Today students fall back on excuses – such as not being able to get classes, paying higher fees, and sitting in old facilities – that hinder our educational goals. But imagine the passion and drive it took these students to overcome such an undeserved obstacle and break through barriers to move on and not let anything stop them.

Congratulations Nisei Honorary Degree recipients! It’s a long time deserved.

~ Desiree Roughton, Communications Student Assistant, Enrollment Services

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Long Time Gone

Carl Yoshimine

Carl Yoshimine

For all the WWII movies, novels, mini-series and documentaries, nothing brings the era more to life than meeting someone who lived it.

My grandfather and other family members served in combat – my great uncle died fighting in Europe – and their stories resonate in a way that’s difficult to convey.

In the same way, it’s a challenge to describe meeting Carl Yoshimine.

Yoshimine, 87, welcomed our MarComm video team into his quaint Anaheim home to interview him about the honorary degree he will receive from San Diego State University next week.

He sat in his living room rocking chair and recalled his freshman year at SDSU in 1941. The San Diego native easily made friends and assimilated into the campus community.

“But then the war broke out,” he told us. “And that ripped the rug out from my foundation.”

Yoshimine was forced to abruptly leave school when the United States began relocating Japanese Americans from along the Pacific coast to inland internment camps.

He calmly recalled the events that transpired – from Pearl Harbor to his internment and eventual release to pursue his education and the rest of his life in America.

He felt little ill will about the past. If anything, he credited the United States and its citizens for their capacity to admit prior wrongs and confront them.

Yoshimine and his wife Miko – who next week will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary – invited us to join them for lunch. We couldn’t accept, but he would not let us leave without a bag of cookies and other treats.

Yoshimine, as charming a man as I’ve ever met, posed for photographs outside his home and thanked us profusely while walking us to our car.

Thank you, Carl.

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