January 12, 2017

In These Troubling Times, Minoru Yasui Inspires

Minoru Yasui, the pioneering Japanese American lawyer, received a special mention by Oregon governor Kate Brown in her inaugural address on Monday, January 9th.

Speaking to members of Oregon’s state legislature, Governor Brown said:

“Born in Hood River a little over 100 years ago, Minoru Yasui was the first Japanese American to graduate from the University of Oregon School of Law School and the first Japanese American member of the Oregon Bar. He made national history by challenging the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, which required persons of Japanese ancestry to remain in their homes between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

On March 28, 1942, at the age of 25, Mr. Yasui put his personal liberty on the line for justice, as he intentionally violated the curfew by walking the streets of Portland. He was be arrested and imprisoned for nine months in solitary confinement at the Multnomah County Jail before being ordered to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where he would remain until near the end of the war.

Mr. Yasui eventually established a law practice in Denver, and, until his death in 1986, continued to fight for civil rights for all and for the courts to rule that Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional. Mr. Yasui’s ashes are buried beneath a pair of giant cedars in a Hood River cemetery.

In November 2015, President Obama awarded Mr. Yasui with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award that can be bestowed upon an American citizen. He is the only Oregonian ever to receive this award.

I share this story today because America has just come through the most bitter and divisive national election in memory; an election featuring rhetoric questioning the very citizenship and civil rights of Americans.

And I want to make it very clear that here in Oregon, where thousands have fought for and demanded equality, we can not and will not retreat.”

APANO and our partner organizations including the ACLU played a leading role in making March 28 as Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon and we recently established the Minoru Yasui Voices of Change Award and named him posthumously as our first recipient.

Please contact Governor Brown and thank her for highlighting Yasui’s life in her speech.

Our work at APANO is indebted to visionaries like Yasui and his message of inclusion and justice is needed now more than ever.