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Japanese Americans

Japanese Americans

From "Japanese Americans," a speech Pearl Buck delivered at a victory rally of the Japanese American Committee on Democracy, in New York City (April, 1942).

[Note: on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which directed the Secretary of War to remove potentially treacherous persons to places of military confinement. Over the next two years, before the order was rescinded in 1944, several thousand Japanese-Americans were interned in ten isolated concentration camps spread across half-a-dozen Western states. Entire families, including small children, were imprisoned as enemies of the United States. Most Americans declined to comment on the policy; Pearl Buck, on the contrary, opposed it in private and in public.]

But these Japanese Americans for whom I speak are not our enemies. They have come out from Japan. They have become Americans, because Japan could no longer be their country. They have chosen our country, a democracy, for theirs. Some of them have chosen to come here themselves, some of them are because their parents came and they themselves were born here and have grown up as part of America. They are here because they do not want to go back to Japan. They cannot go back to Japan. They do not believe in what Japan is. There is no home for them in Japan any more.

What is our duty to them? It is more than a duty, it is an opportunity. Here are Japanese Americans who are alien to the spirit in Japan today, who are far closer to us than they are to Japan, who are indeed American. Let us show them what America is, teach them by our words and our behavior what democracy means, what justice to all men is, what freedom means for the individual. Let us show them the best side of America, the true America, so that they will not be discouraged in their faith in democracy but encouraged and strengthened and inspired. . . .

This is our opportunity today. Let us make the most of it. Let us not simply shut up in isolation or condemn to loneliness of spirit any Japanese whom we happen to find on our land, regardless of whether he is American or not. That is the sort of thing fascism does, blind, stupid, unreasoning. No, let us remember that among these Japanese may be the Americans who one day will be able to make Japan ready for the sort of world we want after the war. It depends on us and how we prepare those future leaders, who may be here in our midst at this very moment, as Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese revolution, was once the obscure son of an obscure merchant, and in this country unrecognized and unaided. He did not find here what might have helped China to have prepared better for the cruel struggle she is now having. Let us not make the same mistake again.

To train Japan's future leaders -- can there be a greater chance for democracy?