SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese American Citizens League announces four national awards to be conferred during its 2023 National Convention, “Rooted in Community,” this month in Little Tokyo. The awards to be presented are the following:

Edison Uno Civil Rights Award to Don Tamaki for a career of fighting for justice through the law and most recently his leadership on the California Reparations Task Force.

Governor Ralph Carr Award for Courage to Jack Svahn for his leadership in the Reagan Administration toward the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award to community leader and activist Alan Nishio.

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award to world-renowned scientist Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu.

All four recipients will be honored at the Sayonara Gala, which will conclude JACL’s annual convention on the evening of July 22.

These awards are given to select individuals to recognize their contributions not only to the Japanese American community but also to the advancement of their fields for the betterment of all people. The JACL National Board confers these awards with consultation from other leaders in the Japanese American community and past JACL leaders.

The four will be recognized along with recipients of the prestigious JACL Ruby Pin.

The 2023 JACL Convention will be held July 19-23 in Little Tokyo. Based at the Doubletree Hotel, events will be held throughout the community, including the Terasaki Budokan, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. To register to attend the convention or for tickets to specific events, including the Sayonara Gala, go to Full registrations or Sayonara Gala tickets must be purchased no later than July 9.

Edison Uno Civil Rights Award – Don Tamaki

Don Tamaki is an extraordinary legal professional who has made a lasting mark on the field of law and social justice. With over 40 years of experience, he has been a steadfast advocate for entrepreneurs, privately-held companies, and nonprofit corporations, providing them with invaluable legal counsel. His expertise spans various areas, including commercial leasing, personnel and employment law, corporate governance, and business transactions.

Tamaki’s dedication to his clients and his commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethics and competency have earned him widespread recognition, including being selected as Northern California’s Super Lawyer for 19 consecutive years. However, his impact extends far beyond his professional accomplishments.

He is revered for his historic work on the pro bono legal team that successfully reopened the landmark Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States. This pivotal endeavor led to the overturning of Fred Korematsu’s unjust conviction for refusing to be incarcerated during the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Tamaki’s involvement not only provided a significant legal foundation for the Japanese American redress movement but also highlighted the importance of rectifying past injustices.

As a co-founder of StopRepeatingHistory.Org, Tamaki continues to draw parallels between historical injustices and the targeting of minority groups based on race or religion, fostering solidarity and advocating for reparations for African Americans.

As a former managing partner of Minami Tamaki LLP, Tamaki has played an instrumental role in shaping the firm’s values and fostering a culture of service and inclusivity. His dedication to community service is evident in his involvement with organizations such as the Glide Foundation and his current role as board president of the San Francisco Japantown Foundation.

Furthermore, Tamaki’s appointment by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans showcases his standing as a respected authority on matters of racial equity and his commitment to creating positive change.

Tamaki’s contributions extend beyond the courtroom, leaving a lasting impact on both the legal profession and the communities he serves. In recognition of his exceptional legal career, his dedication to social justice, and his tireless efforts to promote reparations and equality, it is a great honor to present Tamaki with this prestigious award. His work serves as an inspiration to all those who strive to make a lasting impact in their profession and society.

JACL established the Edison Uno Civil Rights Award in 1985 to recognize Uno’s long leadership in the organization fighting for civil and human rights for all, and especially his leadership in the early fight for redress, a victory, unfortunately, he would not live to see.

Governor Ralph L. Carr Award for Courage – Jack Svahn

John A. Svahn is a distinguished public servant, U.S. Air Force veteran, and former politician. Throughout his tenure in various esteemed government roles, he was an exceptional leader deeply committed to the public welfare. From his serving as commissioner of the Social Security Administration to serving in the Reagan Administration as assistant to the president for policy development. Svahn has played a significant role in shaping policies that have had a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals.

It was in his role in the Reagan White House that Svahn served as an advocate for Japanese American redress. Even as opposition rose up against the idea of providing redress to Japanese Americans, Svahn’s regular contact with leaders from the JACL, including past presidents Frank Sato and Floyd Shimomura and then National Director Ron Wakabayashi, reinforced his belief that this was a cause worth fighting for. While Svahn would be the first to project praise to others, the significant role he played in reminding Reagan of the importance of signing redress into law cannot be ignored.

Svahn’s journey in public service began with his academic pursuits, where he honed his knowledge and skills in political science and law. His post-graduate studies at esteemed institutions such as the University of the Pacific McGeorge Law School and Georgetown University School of Law laid a solid foundation for his subsequent achievements. His diverse experiences, including his time in the U.S. Air Force and his roles in California’s social welfare department, provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and intricacies of public policy.

As commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Svahn made significant contributions to the nation’s social welfare system. His leadership during this crucial period ensured the smooth functioning of one of the most vital government programs, providing financial support and security to millions of Americans. Later, his appointment as under secretary of health and human services showcased his ability to navigate complex healthcare issues and develop policies that would improve the well-being of citizens across the nation.

His subsequent role as assistant to the president for policy development demonstrated his trusted counsel to Reagan and his invaluable contributions to shaping the administration’s policy agenda. In recognition of his unwavering dedication to public service, his remarkable leadership, and his profound impact on social welfare and policy development, it is an honor to present Svahn with this prestigious award. His tireless efforts and steadfast commitment to improving the lives of others serve as an inspiration to future generations of public servants.

The Governor Ralph L. Carr Award for Courage honors the memory of Colorado Governor Carr, who was one of the few leaders to stand up in objection to the incarceration of Japanese Americans and openly welcomed them to the state of Colorado. This award is given by the JACL to recognize those who personify the governor’s legacy of working toward racial justice and promotion of civil rights, in particular fighting for communities other than their own.

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Alan Nishio

Alan Nishio is a remarkable individual whose lifetime of dedication and activism has left an indelible impact on the Japanese American community and beyond. Born in the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II, Nishio’s personal experiences of injustice and discrimination fueled his lifelong commitment to social justice. From his early involvement in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley to his instrumental role as a founding staff member for the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, Nishio has tirelessly championed the rights and empowerment of marginalized communities.

Throughout his nearly four decades as an educator and administrator, Nishio not only imparted knowledge to countless students but also advocated for their well-being. His position as associate vice president of student services at California State University, Long Beach, allowed him to make significant contributions to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for students.

Additionally, Nishio’s activism extended beyond academia, as he played a pivotal role in establishing influential community organizations like the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization and the Little Tokyo Service Center. His relentless pursuit of redress for the Japanese American community, exemplified by his role in co-founding the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (NCRR), paved the way for current efforts toward justice and reconciliation.

Nishio’s advocacy and service to the community continue today, as he hopes to continue to pave the way for his grandchildren so that they do not have to suffer through the same kind of racism he did. In an interview in 2020, he says, “That’s the lesson we learned, that as Japanese Americans, we cannot afford to remain silent because we’ve experienced what can happen when racism and xenophobia can run rampant and we are the victims of scapegoating,”

Nishio’s unwavering commitment to speaking truth into the face of power inspires future generations, reminding us of the importance of standing up for equality, preserving cultural heritage, and building unity. It is an honor to present him with JACL’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Syun-Ichi Akasofu

Syun-Ichi Akasofu is a world-renowned expert on the aurora borealis, and a distinguished solar and geophysicist. His lifelong dedication to the study of the northern lights and his groundbreaking research have significantly advanced our understanding of this mesmerizing natural phenomenon. It was during his early years in Japan that his fascination with the aurora and his passion for mountain climbing drew him to Alaska, where he became a prominent leader in auroral research and an energetic administrator, award-winning researcher, educator, and author.

Akasofu’s contributions to the study of the aurora borealis are nothing short of extraordinary. His scientific endeavors and innovative thinking led to the debunking of prevailing beliefs and the formulation of new theories. Through his meticulous observations and research, he made significant discoveries regarding geomagnetic storms, the power source of the aurora, and the shape of the auroral ring. His seminal work challenged established notions, reshaping our understanding of this celestial phenomenon. Akasofu’s publications, including several books and numerous articles, have served as invaluable resources for both experts and enthusiasts interested in the aurora.

Akasofu’s impact has also extended far beyond his groundbreaking research. As an educator and administrator, he served as the director of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where he helped raise over $30 million to build the university’s International Arctic Research Center, with the idea that international students could come and work with students and scientists from around the world. His leadership played an important role in the establishment of the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the International Arctic Research Center.

Akasofu’s unwavering commitment to fostering international collaboration and providing a platform for scientific exploration in the Arctic has set the stage for continued advancements in the field.

In recognition of his exceptional contributions to the study of the aurora borealis, his extensive research achievements, and his transformative leadership, it is an honor to present Akasofu with this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. His passion, intellect, and unwavering pursuit of knowledge have not only expanded our understanding of the natural world but have also inspired generations of scientists to follow in his footsteps.

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