Remarks on Signing the Bill Providing Restitution for the Wartime Internment of Japanese-American Civilians
Members of Congress and distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, we gather
here today to right a grave wrong. More than 40 years ago, shortly after the
the Nation was then at war, struggling for its survival,
and it's not for us today to pass judgment upon those who may have made
mistakes while engaged in that great struggle. Yet we must recognize that the
internment of Japanese-Americans was just that: a mistake. For throughout the
war, Japanese-Americans in the tens of thousands remained utterly loyal to the
Norman Mineta, with us today, was 10 years old when
his family was interned. In the Congressman's words: ``My
own family was sent first to Santa Anita Racetrack. We showered in the horse
paddocks. Some families lived in converted stables, others in hastily thrown
together barracks. We were then moved to
The legislation that I am about to sign provides for a restitution payment to each of the 60,000 surviving Japanese-Americans of the 120,000 who were relocated or detained. Yet no payment can make up for those lost years. So, what is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.
like to note that the bill I'm about to sign also provides funds for members of
the Aleut community who were evacuated from the
And now in closing, I wonder whether you'd permit me one personal reminiscence, one prompted by an old newspaper report sent to me by Rose Ochi, a former internee. The clipping comes from the Pacific Citizen and is dated December 1945.
by plane from Washington,'' the article begins, ``General Joseph W. Stilwell
pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on Mary Masuda in a simple ceremony on
the porch of her small frame shack near Talbert, Orange County. She was one of
the first Americans of Japanese ancestry to return
from relocation centers to
newspaper clipping notes that her two surviving brothers were with Mary and her
parents on the little porch that morning. These two brothers, like the heroic
Kazuo, had served in the United States Army. After General Stilwell made the
award, the motion picture actress Louise Allbritton,
Thank you, and God bless you. And now let me sign H.R. 442, so fittingly named in honor of the 442d.
Thank you all again, and God bless you all. I think this is a fine day.
Note: The President
spoke at in Room 450 of the