The Power of Faith and Hope

Japanese American’s Words Inspire Optimism

Meredith Montgomery

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Marion Konishi, 1943

In 1943, Marion Konishi Takehara graduated as the valedictorian of Amache Senior High School, in Colorado, while interned at a camp for Japanese Americans. Despite being forced to relocate from her Los Angeles home after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066, the incarcerated teenager’s graduation speech epitomizes faith in the human spirit.

She is often asked how she was not angry at the time and why she does not feel resentful today. Takehara, who is now 96, refers to the Japanese term gaman — enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity. “My parents taught us that it was something we had to do — gaman — and as kids we knew that. It was our duty as Americans to go to camp and that’s why I have never been resentful. It was really hard, but my dad is the one who was the strongest in the family and he pulled us through.”

In May of 2016, as a part of the annual Amache Pilgrimage, Takehara returned to Amache for the first time since she left the internment camp in 1943. She was asked to again deliver her graduation speech and after hearing about it on the news, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner read Takehara’s speech on the floor of the Senate the following month. Her inspiring words are now recorded in the Congressional Records of the National Archives and are reprinted with permission here.

Meredith Montgomery is the granddaughter of Marion Konishi Takehara.

America, Our Hope is in You

Commencement Speech, June 25, 1943

by Marion Konishi

One and a half years ago I knew only one America — an America that gave me an equal chance in the struggle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If I were asked then — “What does America mean to you?” — I would answer without any hesitation and with all sincerity — “America means freedom, equality, security and justice.”

The other night while I was preparing for this speech, I asked myself this same question — “What does America mean to you?” I hesitated — I was not sure of my answer. I wondered if America still means and will mean freedom, equality, security and justice when some of its citizens were segregated, discriminated against…

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Meredith Montgomery

writer | designer | artist | mom | ryt | herbivore | nature nut | music enthusiast | slow bicyclist