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November 2017


President's Message
A time to reflect on America's promise

PresidentAs the holidays quickly approach, we have an opportunity to reflect. In the last year, so much has gone on in our nation and across the globe. Stories fill the news about international terrorism, possible nuclear confrontation and domestic racial bigotry. Marches, demonstrations and pledges about restoring America to what it once was fill the airwaves; simultaneously, the true nature of America's Promise seems lost. America's Promise - the promise that in our nation, no one is to be judged by the color of their skin, the nation of their origin or the god whom they choose to worship.

Former President George W. Bush recently addressed a gathering in New York. At a time when sound bites have replaced reasoned dialogue, President Bush spoke with conviction and thoughtfulness. He described a national heritage which embodies the highest ideals of freedom and human dignity. The former president stated:

"Our identity as a nation - unlike many other nations - is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr. by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation."

President Bush eloquently captured the essence of America's Promise. A promise made with a moral sense of equality, commitment to justice and spirit of inclusion.

No story better embodies America's Promise than the story of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Their skin tone was different than the majority of mainstream America. Their parents came from the nation with which the United States was at war. Many practiced a religion different than the Founding Fathers of America had practiced. Most challenging of all, their nation had abandoned them and openly questioned their suitability to be Americans. Despite these characteristics, Japanese American young men and women joined the U.S. Armed Services and went on to serve our nation with unparalleled distinction and courage. When the question is asked, "What does an American look like?" - the image of a Japanese American veteran of World War II clearly belongs amongst the numerous possibilities.

The Nisei veterans of World War II proved that being an American is not determined by one's ethnicity, origin or religion. In doing so, they established their place among the many individuals of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, of both sexes and all sexual identities, and of all national origins who have demonstrated that being American is a matter of loyalty to and aspirations for a higher ideal.

President Bush's words rise above politics. His words remind all of us of our greater vision to be a more perfect union. His words challenge us to commit ourselves to that end. Our nation currently faces complex challenges that will require comprehensive responses, often forged by compromise. Such a process can only occur through a spirit of inclusion and a commitment that all Americans be seated at the table. Bigotry stains all of us with a hue that at its core is un-American.

As we all begin to prepare for the holiday season, a time when we reflect on our blessings and look forward to a time of renewal, let us all commit ourselves to remembering that being an American is a matter of the heart. Our Nisei veterans demonstrated that truth 75 years ago. We must continue to do so today.

Happy Holidays!

Mitchell T. Maki
President and Chief Executive Officer, Go For Broke National Education Center

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