[Congressional Record: August 2, 2001 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
COMMENDING THE STUDENTS OF SUNNYSIDE AND TECUMSEH MIDDLE SCHOOLS OF
Mr. Inouye. Madam President, I rise to commend the students of
Sunnyside and Tecumseh Middle Schools of Lafayette, IN, for their
efforts to honor the Japanese American veterans of World War II.
On June 29, 2001, I was honored to help dedicate the long-awaited
National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism. Located just a
stone's throw from this chamber, at the corner of New Jersey and
Louisiana Avenues, the memorial is a beautiful evocation of Japanese
American contributions to life of this great Nation.
Though small in numbers, Americans of Japanese ancestry have had a
tremendous impact on our Nation in countless ways, in fields and
factories, in boardrooms and classrooms, in State houses and court
houses. Of course, when their Nation called, they answered, performing
magnificently on the battlefield. Their success, achieved in the face
of discrimination and cultural misunderstanding, is a testament to
their values of hard work, self-sacrifice, and love of family,
community, and country, values that have helped make our Nation strong
The National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism is a fitting
tribute to the ``patriotism, perseverance, and posterity" of this small
but vigorous minority in our country. I hope that all our colleagues,
and indeed Americans everywhere, will have a chance to visit this
remarkable shrine and reflect on the lesson that it teaches us, that
America is great because it embraces its diversity, and that freedom
and opportunity can be realized only when they are available to all.
Today I would like to share with you another tribute, one less grand,
perhaps, and constructed of cloth and paper rather than steel and
stone, but no less meaningful. I am referring to a remarkable work of
art and remembrance, a quilt that comes from the heartland of America.
Crafted by the young people in Lafayette, IN, the quilt honors the
thousands of Japanese Americans who answered the call of duty during
the Second World War.
Through the good offices of the Japanese American Veterans
Association, the larger-than-life quilt to which I refer had its
inaugural unveiling at the dedication dinner celebrating the June 29,
2001 opening of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism.
It captured the hearts and imaginations of all who saw it that evening,
and in so doing, appropriately highlighted the memorial's primary
mission, to educate Americans about the heritage of Japanese Americans
and their special place in the fabric of our Nation.
I would like to commend the 8th grade students of Sunnyside and
Tecumseh Middle Schools of Lafayette, IN, who joined together to create
this unique work, and to thank their teacher, Ms. Leila Meyerratken,
for her inspirational support for this initiative. Five hundred
students, often working after school and on weekends, contributed their
time, energy, and inspiration to the school project. Mrs. Meyerratken
herself gave up holidays and leave to see the project through.
The quilt is a marvelously conceived and meticulously constructed
work. The structure and detail were crafted with an eye for historical
accuracy, and every opportunity was taken to imbue the quilt with
appropriate symbolism. For example, 120,000 tassels edge the red-white-
and blue tapestry, to represent the number of Japanese Americans
incarcerated in the wartime relocation camps. And the quilt's
dimensions are carefully framed at 19 x 41 feet, to recall the fateful
year America entered the war.
The main body of the red, white, and blue cloth quilt is interspersed
with memorabilia, including dog tags and parts of uniforms, that were
selected from Nisei veterans themselves. Other sections contain
heartfelt poems written by some of the junior high students. The names
of more than 20,000 Nisei soldiers, from the 100th Battalion, the famed
442nd Infantry Regiment, the 522nd Artillery Battalion, 1399th Engineer
Construction Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service, are
painstakingly attached to the rest of the quilt's panels.
Its creators intended the quilt to honor Americans of Japanese
ancestry who volunteered to fight for their country in order to prove
their loyalty, in spite of the detention of their family members in
internment camps. The students expressed hope that the tapestry will
teach others how Japanese Americans, by making sacrifices on the field
of battle, rose above the indignities they suffered. These youths felt
strongly that the World War II history of the Japanese Americans
soldiers, which is not generally covered in history books, was a story
Mrs. Meyerratken, the leader of the project, says that the quilt ``is
meant to promote social justice by teaching others in simple ways what
these veterans did and how they overcame racism.''
I hope that the quilt will tour the Nation and convey to all citizens
the message of tolerance and understanding that these young people from
Indiana have so beautifully and inspirationally captured in this
marvelous quilt. If this quilt accurately represents the sentiments of
America's heartland, then I think the future is in good hands