Eulogy of Noboru Taguma by Andy Noguchi

Noboru Taguma Eulogy

By Andy Noguchi

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I offer my deepest condolences to the Taguma family and thank you for allowing me to share a few thoughts about Mr. Taguma for myself, my wife Twila, and daughter Annie.  He did so much with his life and we are truly grateful.

Noboru Taguma helped change Japanese American history for generations to come. He brought people in the community together. He enriched people’s lives, including mine and my family’s.

Mr. Taguma’s character, his conviction, and his courage, helped write a new, proud, and honest narrative for our community. As he grew up as a farm boy to immigrant parents in West Sacramento, the lessons of hard work, family, community, and what America should be were etched in his character.

When the government unfairly locked him up, his parents and his 6 brothers and sisters at the Amache concentration camp, he firmly believed that the American dream and his convictions had been betrayed.

When our government asked him to forget about this grave injustice, he courageously protested by refusing to the draft until his family’s rights were restored.  He and 300 other young men, mostly farm boys like himself, bravely stood up against the overwhelming might of the U.S. government, police, courts, and even much of the Japanese American community.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Mr. Taguma told me the story about when he was just 8 years old on his family’s farm. His father Iwakichi was driving with young Noboru to visit friends on New Year’s Day. Being a social type, Iwakichi couldn’t turn down his friends’ generous offers of hot sake and respecting the traditional New Year’s toasts. He probably had a few too many adult beverages.

His father had Noboru drive him home. Here was a little 8 year old boy standing up to reach the steering wheel and controls with his father “relaxed” in the car. A policeman seeing a kid at the wheel pulled him over. The cop walked up to the window and asked:  “What are doing sonny boy?”  Eight-year-old Noboru’s reply? My name is NOT “sonny boy.” It’s Noboru Taguma!

Even at a very young age, Mr. Taguma was standing up (literally) and speaking up in the face of authority!  To all the Taguma grandchildren here, don’t follow this one example from ji-chan. You can follow his other examples.

Over the last 20 years, Mr. Taguma’s character, conviction, and courage continued – even when many others told him not to rock the boat. He didn’t have to speak out in his later years, just like he didn’t have to speak up in camp.  But he did!

My wife Twila and I first met Mr. Taguma in 1993 – 18 years ago at Sac State College.  We attended that first local forum on the Nisei Resisters organized by Kenji Taguma and moderated by Wayne Maeda.

In 1994, the local Florin JACL publicly honored Mr. Taguma and 5 other local resisters with the Daruma Civil Rights Award.  The plaque said “Recognizing your courage in challenging the internment of Japanese Americans.”

In the years leading up to the overwhelming vote for the National JACL Resisters Recognition Resolution in 2000, Mr. Taguma was very busy. He participated in numerous forums, interviews, and meetings to share the important stand for civil rights.

Finally in 2002, at the National Recognition Ceremony in S.F., Mr. Taguma and 17 other resister families bravely stepped forward to tell their story to millions of Americans through the media and seek understanding and reconciliation for the community.

Noboru Taguma inspired me, as well as a whole generation of 3rd and 4th generation Japanese Americans, about standing up for what’s right. In this era of post 9/11 suspicions, prejudice, and backlash against other unpopular Americans, this lesson is critical today.

When I think about the future of our community, I look to our young people and the role models they have. Our daughter Annie has grown up hearing of those like my late father, among the courageous Nisei veterans, who chose to serve in the Military Intelligence Service,  442nd , and 100th, fighting for American though their families were unfairly locked up. She has also grown up meeting many courageous Nisei resisters like Noboru Taguma, (Susumu Yenokida, Ken Yoshida, Yosh Kubo, and others) who chose to stand up for the Constitution and went to Federal prison. Annie values both choices.

Conviction, character, and courage?  Today, we need more people like Noboru Taguma.   He gave us so much and I thank the Taguma family for sharing him.  I am privileged to have known him.  Thank you.

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