Legacy of the Sansei – Perpetuating Enduring Values in Changing Times

Legacy of the Sansei – Perpetuating Enduring Values in Changing Times

Photo of JoAnn Yukimura, member of the Kaua‘i County Council and former mayor of Kaua‘i County

JoAnn A. Yukimura
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

I feel unending gratitude to the Issei and Nisei, whose hard work, enduring spirit, and commitment to their children and community against great odds have enabled Sansei like me to live prosperous, fulfilling lives.

Photo of four generations of Yukimura women: Jennie Yukimura (seated); Maile Walters holding infant daughter Ualani; and JoAnn Yukimura

Four generations of Yukimura women: Nisei Jennie Yukimura (seated), Maile Walters holding her infant daughter Ualani and Maile’s mother, Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura. (Photo courtesy JoAnn Yukimura)

Our responsibility as Sansei is to never forget the stories and the legacy and to pass them on to our children and grandchildren. Most importantly, we must live those values taught us by the Issei and Nisei through the example of their lives and apply them to the challenges and opportunities of our generation. As we do so, our children, our community and the world will prosper and thrive, as well.

As a Japanese American born and raised on Kaua‘i, my life was generally free of racial prejudice, which greatly influenced who I’ve become and what I’ve been able to accomplish. The Issei and Nisei in Hawai‘i passed on this great gift in three ways.

First, the Japanese American soldiers who fought in World War II battled on two fronts — against racial prejudice at home and against the enemy on the battlefield, leaving no doubt about their loyalty or bravery. The Nisei earned their place in society, not only for themselves, but also for the generations of Ja-
panese Americans that followed.

Secondly, through great risk and sacrifice, Hawai‘i’s labor movement secured living wages and better conditions for plantation workers, blurring the lines of class and race and reducing the gap between rich and poor. Japanese Americans worked together with other ethnic groups in order to achieve this, and in doing so, built into the collective mindset of Hawai‘i one of the most important social concepts for these times: unity in diversity. “Unity in diversity” is a phrase Wikipedia explains well as a concept of “‘unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation’ that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

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