By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
MONTEBELLO — The Japanese American Treaty Centennial Scholarship Fund presented scholarships to 20 students and also gave special recognition to longtime supporters during a luncheon held July 30 at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello.
The special honorees were:
• Dr. and Mrs. Jack Naito. Dr. Naito is a SBD Group chairman and investment commercial business building owner. Since 2002, he has been a generous donor and consultant to the Japanese American Scholarship Fund. He is an advisor for the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Kansai Club, ikebana and tea ceremony groups, and other organizations. He has served as president of Orange County Japanese American Association for more than 12 years and was involved with Lions Club of Orange for 15 years. The Naitos also continue to welcome students from Japan into their home.
This year, Dr. Naito is celebrating his 90th birthday as well as 68 years of marriage.
“This is a great honor and privilege … I will be trying my best to contribute to the further growth of our community,” Naito said.
• The Kiyoshi Takemoto Memorial Fund, which was established in 2008 on behalf of Kiyoshi “Kiy” Takemoto by his wife, Susie Takemoto. Kiy was born in 1934 in Watsonville and was incarcerated with his family in Poston, Ariz. Despite humble beginnings, he and his siblings achieved their educational and professional goals. He married Susie in 1963 and although they had no children of their own, it was very important to him to reach out to young people. Many high school and college students who worked for him in his pharmacies sought his advice and guidance. Kiy shared the same vision that his parents instilled in him, that of recognizing the importance of gaining knowledge through education.
Susie Takemoto accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.
• Tetsuo Takahashi. After a long, successful career with Mitsui & Co., Takahashi joined the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California as administrative director in 2000, when Tom Kamei was the president. Takahashi remembers Kamei as “a man of conviction” who “taught me how we should work with our community as a nonprofit organization.” After retiring from the JCCSC, Takahashi continued to support the JCCSC and JCCF by volunteering in the office and overseeing administrative and financial matters. He has been instrumental in supporting the JATCSF program.
“I’ve watched many brilliant young people receive this award and I hope we can continue this wonderful program for years to come,” Takahashi said.
JATCSF Chairperson and President Kitty Sankey added, “Mr. Takahashi was at the chamber office all last week helping to prepare for today.”
The keynote speaker was Terry Hara, the first Asian American deputy chief in the history of the LAPD and a recipient of the Japanese government’s Kunsho award.
Hara recalled his family’s roots in the Terminal Island fishing village and stressed the importance of “giving back, doing more, and appreciating what you have … In high school I did a lot of things that were for the community, for the people that I lived around … I held a part-time job, but I still gave back to the community in the service organizations that exist on each campus … I think that’s an important part of development, growing up.”
Hara, who joined the LAPD in 1980 and retired last year, also talked about overcoming obstacles. “I never gave up even though I knew it was going to be challenging,” he said “…I failed many times but you never give up … Always strive for the best and don’t allow anybody to tell you you can’t do it … If you fail a little bit, that is not a negative. I see failing as falling forward, moving forward, learning from your mistakes.”
He recounted his first assignment, posing as a student at Belmont High School to investigate drug dealing on campus, like the characters on the TV show “21 Jump Street.” When his undercover work was done, “I had to put my police officer’s hat on and make an arrest of students that were involved in illegal activity.”
Over the years, Hara said, he and others were able to make a difference. “There were only 66 Asian Americans in a police department of 7,600. Today, 35 years later, there’s 980 Asian Americans in LAPD, a department that is more than 50 percent people of color. I’ve been able to witness change within an organization that was seen as very conservative and primarily Caucasian.”
He told the students that as they go on to the next phase of their education, “you’re going to change and you’re going to experience life itself in a more dynamic way, meeting so many different people, connecting with so many individuals of different backgrounds … Anything that you do in the future … be open-minded of what’s occurring, and be open-minded to hear the stories of others and to hear their family stories … You’ll find that a lot of that information is very similar to your story.”
See previous article for profiles of the JATCSF scholarship recipients.