Andy Noguchi (Photo by Mark L. Dodge)

An 86-to-0 unanimous vote of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) National Council ratified the Power of Words Handbook and Implementation Ideas on July 7 in Bellevue, Wash.

This capped a three-year campaign for truthful and accurate terms, and retiring the misleading euphemisms created by the government to cover up the denial of constitutional and human rights, the force, oppressive conditions, and racism against 120,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry locked up in America’s World War II concentration camps.

Former World War II incarceree Mako Nakagawa of Seattle initiated this campaign in 2009. She, the Seattle Power of Words Committee, JACL activists, including eight serving on the Handbook Committee, along with supportive community leaders across the country, fueled this effort.

The Power of Words campaign can now move into an implementation phase to more widely use the new terms on local, regional, and national levels.

Power of Words handbook

The 14-page Power of Words Handbook includes sections on recommended terminology, misleading euphemisms, and brief Japanese American history. It also includes historical photos, extensive references, and valuable resource materials. You can download the final Power of Words Handbook, and Implementation Plan Ideas from the following links (requires Adobe Reader software to view/print):

Power of Words Handbook

Power of Words Implementation Ideas

Over an eight-month period, the JACL Power of Words II Committee focused its work, researched, and drafted the handbook. It released a draft in May 2012 for one month of public comment that expanded into two months of input with dozens of good suggestions. The committee also circulated a greatly revised version to all JACL delegates a couple of weeks before the July 5 convention.

Representatives from all seven JACL Districts, plus a chairperson, made up the JACL Power of Words II Committee. They include Dawn Rego (Pacific Northwest), Andy Noguchi (Northern California), Bob Taniguchi (Central California), Megan Gately (Pacific Southwest), Sandra Grant (Intermountain), Lisa Hanasono (Midwest), Hiro Nishikawa (Eastern), and Greg Marutani, chairperson.

The past year’s work followed two previous National JACL debates and resolutions. The organization passed the original Power of Words resolution, led by Mako Nakagawa, at its Chicago convention in 2010 by an 80-2 vote. In 2011, the JACL called for a better draft handbook by a 55-17 vote at its Los Angeles convention.

By the end of this year’s JACL National Convention, an impressive list of over 90 community leaders, JACL chapters, and organizations across the country had signed on to the Supporters List. We passed this out to all delegates prior to the ratification vote. Additional supporters are still encouraged to sign on. The Power of Words Handbook, Implementation Ideas, plus an updated Supporters List will be posted on the JACL website at

Besides the Implementation Ideas adopted, the JACL National Council has already started the ball rolling. The JACL took its first major step at the convention. It unanimously passed an emergency resolution supporting a permanent memorial at the Tanforan Assembly Center site near San Francisco. The Power of Words language was strongly recommended in the resolution due to the initiative of UC Berkeley student Leslie Hamachi and Jim Duff of the Berkeley Chapter, assisted by Paul Uyehara of the Philadelphia Chapter.

There are several other areas where the National JACL might also implement the Power of Words. These include the creation of a Pacific Citizen editorial policy on World War II language, and making revisions in future editions of the widely used JACL Curriculum Guide. I am proposing that the JACL take these common-sense steps.

A great example of Power of Words awareness-raising took place during two well-attended workshops at the convention organized by the Seattle Power of Words Committee, co-chaired by Stan Shikuma and Joan Yoshitomi. The workshops provided clear background on why the issue is important, ways to explain the new terms, and encouraged people to spread the word.

Presenters included Professor Lane Hirabayashi of UCLA, author Barbara Takei, youth activist Kaila Yoshitomi, Dawn Rego of the JACL Power of Words II Committee, Stan Shikuma, and Mako Nakagawa, “mother of the modern-day Power of Words movement.”

We appreciate all who have had a chance to back this continuing campaign so far.


Andy Noguchi, a member of the Power of Words II Committee, is the civil rights co-chair for the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District of the JACL, and serves in the same role for the Florin Chapter in Sacramento. Each year, Noguchi coordinates Florin JACL’s trip to the Manzanar Pilgrimage, in conjunction with the Council on American Islamic Relations-Sacramento Valley. This article was originally posted on the Manzanar Committee’s blog.

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