Pelosi Remarks at Opening Exhibit for Congressional Gold Medal Tour

Jun 29, 2013
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

San Francisco – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the de Young Museum during an opening celebration of the exhibit highlighting the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Nisei veterans of World War II. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Good morning everyone.

“General, Colin Bailey, congratulations to you on your leadership and your beautiful Fine Arts Museum, and thank you for your hospitality. And not only this morning, but for this magnificent exhibit; it’s so very, very important as you beautifully described.

“I’m honored to be here with Daphne Kwok, Chair [of] the President’s Advisory [Commission]; Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; and Lawson Sakai, our hero, a veteran and Congressional Gold Medal Recipient; and all Congressional Gold Medal recipients who are here today, and their families.

“Colin Bailey spoke so beautifully that the origin of recognition going back to the time of Alexander. The basis of this medal is one that began in our country. George Washington received the Congressional Gold Medal, so he is in very good company today, and you are in very good company with the founder of our country, George Washington. Another basis for this medal is the courage that all of you had during World War II and beyond.

“I know that Tom Grace is here who has written a book called Twice Heroes. Tom is here, and I’ve mentioned Tom because he’s written a book called Twice Heroes, and on the cover is a picture of Senator Daniel Inouye, who was a regular visitor here, but has now gone on into a better place at the end of last year. But in the book, Tom quotes President Truman as saying—that’s why ‘twice heroes’ is the name—‘you fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won.’ And you have won. Twice heroes.

“It is interesting to know that there were over 9,486—probably more as we’ll find out at some point—at least 9,486 Purple Heart awards given to all of you, 4,000 Bronze Stars at least, 21 Congressional Medals of Honor—the highest honor, Presidential citations, thousands of other commendations from our country and also even from Britain. I see that [you] are here, Maya Soetoro-Ng; Maya, wonderful that you are here—the President’s sister—aren’t we honored by her presence. Thank you so much for honoring us with your presence. The President was very pleased that we were all going to be coming together while he is traveling in Africa now. Every opportunity we get, we must honor the work, the valor, the courage of our veterans, and when they are ‘twice heroes,’ we have to double-down on that honor.

“It is appropriate that Colin—Director Bailey, what’s the appropriate honorific that I call you? I know Dede Wilsey would want me to call you the grandest name of all, she’s so happy with your leadership, and we are happy with Dede Wilsey’s leadership as well. [We are so happy] that this happens in San Francisco, because—since the enduring legacy of Japanese-American soldiers will be carried on at the learning center, Building 640, at the Presidio.

“I mention Senator Inouye. He visited there so many times to recognize the courage of Japanese-American servicemen. It was once a make-shift center, tutoring Japanese-American service members in the Japanese language to be deployed in the Pacific; that’s what it used to be. We met there a number of occasions. In years to come it will serve as a source of education of the diverse dimension of the immigrant experience—the Japanese-American experience.

“Today with this exhibit at the de Young, with its tribute to ‘American Heroes – Japanese-American World War II [Nisei] Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal,’ we continue to pay tribute to you, to these soldiers. We again celebrate the heroes and veterans, these men of the Greatest Generation who were willing to pay any price and bear any burden to fight tyranny and secure our future. It is fitting that the motto of the 442nd, as inscribed on the Gold Medal, [is] ‘Go for Broke.’ We all know that. Because the Gold Medal awardees were willing to ‘go for broke’ and fight for freedom abroad and against discrimination here at home, even in the face of injustice of internment, which is such a blunt on American history, in the lives of some of us who are gathered here. Even in the age of racism and prejudice, endless Japanese-Americans endured brutality in their own communities, these brave men in uniform rose above feeling embittered. Instead, they felt compelled to demonstrate their love of country and their loyalty to the cause of democracy.

“Simply put, the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service saved American lives. Across the Atlantic, they faced deadly combat in Italy, France, and Germany. In the Pacific, they interpreted radio transmissions—very, very important to the war in the Pacific – translated enemy documents and interrogated prisoners of war. Some gave what President Lincoln once called the ‘last full measure of devotion,’ never to return to their homes again. Yet, all through, they were great fighters; all through, they were great patriots. All recognized the task in their mission wasn’t simply the end of fascism, but also the end of discrimination here at home. All embraced and all, indeed, advanced the American ideal of equality, our heritage and our hope. And this weekend we have another manifestation of it here in San Francisco. In this museum, and in museums all across America, ultimately in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the display of the Congressional Gold Medal will serve as a stunning tribute to the 442nd, the 100th battalion. It will continue to inspire us forth this battle they began: to create and secure a more just and more fair America; to sustain our country [as] the land of the free and home of the brave.

“Now I’m sticking with my notes because I haven’t spoken on many occasions, and recently within a year ago, Harriet—Harriet Ishimoto from my staff—when did we work together when the medals were distributed to U.S. soldiers who couldn’t come to Washington, was that one year ago? We all had a good time talking there about all this; the history, the richness, the individual stories, are so spectacular that they confined me to my notes so that I don’t keep you here all day on this beautiful day. But I’m sorry that the Mayor could not be here. I saw him last night when I came in from Washington; he fully intended to be here. I know he has said through others his regards, his congratulations, his commitment to making sure that people always remember and take pride in the great patriotism that was demonstrated very much in all of you. We want everybody to know.

“So let everybody who comes to the de Young Museum over this period of time…be educated in a way that will make them proud of our country. You helped us correct, not only the injustice in the world, but the injustice in our own country, and for that, you are our heroes and we are very grateful. Congratulations on receiving this medal.”