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Love and Laura Pavlou

I have known Laura (Alumni Profile, June) for nearly 20 years and I was lucky enough to be at her side early on in her career. I volunteered to help at one of her visits to a local prison. Imagine a large group of women who have been mistreated in every way, who are downtrodden in ways we can never imagine. There is hate, fear, remorse and anger in their eyes. Why should they trust Laura, a woman from the outside? In a short time, with loving care, a deep heart, the ability to listen and truly hear the women’s stories, she won them over. I sat in with a group of seven women who opened up and shared their stories. You can’t imagine how profound this was. With Laura’s guidance, the women in this group heard one of their fellow inmates speak for the first time (they had been together for months and even years). She spoke of her fear about having to go back into her old neighborhood where her gang ruled (by state law, inmates are required to return to the county they were arrested in). This brave woman had many gang tattoos on her hands and face, and she acknowledged how this would make it nearly impossible for her to fit in anywhere. I witnessed other inmates go from fearing this woman to having compassion for her. Suddenly, she went from an angry stranger to someone they could understand. This is only a glance into the world Laura enters on a regular basis. What could be more important than helping others in such destitute circumstances? Laura, you have surpassed and hurdled many obstacles in your life and the fact that you have chosen to help others is beyond courageous. One day when it is your time to pass over, you will lay your head on your pillow and know that your life was a life well spent.

I had the opportunity to walk through some of Laura’s difficult years with her and to witness her transformation into a strong, vibrant, capable woman. That has been an inspiration to me! Who better to reach out to other women and help them find their strength and courage to turn their lives around? Thank you, Laura.

My wife and I have also had the opportunity to follow Laura in her journey. Laura has always been the champion for people who have perhaps not made the best decisions. We are so proud to see what she has accomplished, mostly by sheer willingness to not give up. Anyone who knows Laura has to know that curves in the road may cause her delays, but her determination to do what is right will prevail. After all, she is our daughter!

Laura’s resolve to change her life and become the inspiration for other women to do the same is nothing less than extraordinary. We are fortunate that she chose this worthy work as her life’s purpose. I am grateful for her.

I have known Laura for 51 years. Blood makes us related, but time and maturity have finally led us to be sisters. Though Laura and I have lived very separate lives until recently, both believing we couldn’t be more different, our journeys have been quite similar and we have come to know, love, and finally respect one another in the ways that can only be described as “sisterhood.” Many have known Laura could be so much more than she was led to believe or she believed. But when we finally discover what lies within our hearts, and who we are, we can conquer fears, face them head on, and refreshingly reach out to others with a deep desire to help lead them into a direction they can claim as their own. Laura, continue to shine your light as you are directed!

The Spokane Solution

I grew up in a town of 400 people in Eastern Washington and attended UW for grad school. It was great to read about this growing partnership (The Spokane Solution, June). My favorite line in the article: we are the University of Washington, not the University of Seattle. So often, Eastern Washington feels disconnected from the communities and decisions made on the west side of the state. I was encouraged to read this and immediately shared the article with my sister-in-law, who is an ICU nurse in Spokane. I am sure she will appreciate it as well … even if she is a Coug.

Your article said a four-year medical program in Spokane “would be the first permanent, four-year medical-education program outside Seattle in the five-state region [of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho].” I would like to point out that Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima is a four-year osteopathic medical-education program founded in 2005 with the mission of providing physicians in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest. It has graduated three classes thus far and has expanded the class size to 135 students. I do think this is a great move on behalf of the UW School of Medicine in order to solve the physician shortage in Eastern Washington and take responsibility for the communities in Washington that are in dire need of medical care.

I agree that Washington state needs a new medical school, but I disagree with the home institution that you propose. Washington State University is its natural home because of its Eastern Washington and Inland Empire orientation. Also this new medical school would complement WSU’s nursing and pharmacy schools.

The Behnkes

Our family lived just a couple of houses from the Carl Behnke family (UWAA 125th Anniversary, June). John and my brother, Guy, were close pals during their growing years in Yakima. I was three years younger but managed to get in on a lot of the fun with them and the other neighborhood kids. While at Washington, I worked as an announcer at KUOW radio for a couple of years. After that, I spent a few years working in radio and television in Yakima and Lewiston. If you take a peek at my website,, you will note that I carried my early radio years into a greatly enjoyed retirement hobby. While living in Seattle from 1959-1964, I was editor of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce news magazine, Seattle Business. In 1975, Meredith (my late wife of 55 years) and I and our four children moved from Spokane to Eugene. It’s not easy for an old Husky to live in the home of the Ducks! I think of my three years at Washington with a lot of good feelings (I went to Yakima Junior College for my freshman year). Life was good at the Theta Chi house, and I especially remember Dr. Win Bird and his speech classes, and Milo Ryan for his journalism expertise!

No Getting Over It

I was both sad and pleased to read a letter (Extreme Measures, June) from James W. Massick commenting on the excellent article Silence is a Coping Mechanism that appeared in March. I’m sad because Mr. Massick claimed that the article contained “numerous inaccurate assertions” about the unconstitutional exclusion of 120,000 Japanese Americans in World War II, defending the forced mass removal of only people of Japanese ancestry as “not simply being racist,” but that it was a “military emergency,” and that with the “benefit of 20-20 hindsight from 70 years distance…(p)erhaps it could have been handled differently. It wasn’t. Get over it.”

I’m pleased because his letter allows another learning opportunity to dispel the myths and historical revisionism attempting to justify President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which set in motion the forced exclusion of 95 percent of Japanese and Japanese Americans living in the United States and the Aleutian Islands.

A federal bipartisan commission spent three years exhaustively studying this sorry chapter in American history, and under the Reagan Administration in 1988, it released a report entitled “Personal Justice Denied,” with its unanimous finding concluding: “The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions which followed from it—detention, ending detention and ending exclusion—were not driven by analysis of military conditions. The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. Widespread ignorance of Japanese Americans contributed to a policy conceived in haste and executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger at Japan. A grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.”

May we all be inspired from the hopeful maxim from a National Historic Site, the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, the first community to be forcibly mass removed and placed in concentration camps: “Nidoto Nai Yoni—Let it not happen again.”

Mr. James W. Massick’s letter addresses the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He claims to correct “inaccuracies” and “reveal the truth” about the violation of Japanese American constitutional rights during World War II. His letter minimizes the forced evacuation of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans (referred to by the government as “aliens” and “non aliens”). Approximately two-thirds were non aliens or American citizens. Fifty percent were children and about 100 orphans were taken from orphanages or adopted parents and sent to concentration camps because they represented a threat to America. He ignores the fact that the government intentionally withheld evidence in the Hirabayashi Supreme Court case that challenged the injustice. In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which acknowledged the wrongdoing. President Clinton’s 1993 letter of apology stated that the actions were rooted in “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and lack of political leadership.”

In spite of these injustices, Mr. Massick urges the Japanese Americans to “get over it.” Given the fact that there are at least two Americas (one with more justice than the other), it is understandable why Massick would take this view, which incidentally reflects the privileged America he lives in. To that end, I would invite him to imagine being a resident of the other America as a “non alien” and watch helplessly as his family and loved ones suffer humiliations and violations. He could then experience the heartbreak of being betrayed and caged behind barbed wire for three or more years with other innocents. A rape victim once shared the thought that the forced incarceration was like the rape of an entire community by someone they trusted (Uncle Sam). This partly explains why some Japanese Americans were in denial, committed suicide, or tried to prove they were 110 percent American in response.

It is easy to regard the “get over it” remark as a dismissal that minimizes the importance of the event. But it also can be taken as a veiled plea for forgiveness. Not surprisingly, there are Japanese Americans who would forgive the government. I, however, am not one of them. I have spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with the unforgivable and I have concluded there is no excuse good enough to pardon what the government did. As a result, I speak up so it does not happen again. Since the Japanese Americans were the first to be taken, it is our legacy to be the first to protest similar injustices. As Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself but it rhymes.” Because of this legacy, ironically I will stand for you, Mr. Massick, and your family if by chance you and they are taken unjustly based on your “race, wartime hysteria, or lack of political leadership.”
DR. LARRY MATSUDA, ’67, ’73, ’78

Dear Mr. Massick, I’d like to thank you for your letter in response to “Silence is a Coping Mechanism.” In summary, you wrote that all 120,000 West Coast Japanese Americans sent off to “internment camps” could not be proven innocent. You brought up the fact that the government may not have handled the situation well, but, that 70 years later, we should “get over it.” Mr. Massick, I’m grateful because you have reminded me why I must never “get over it.” As the descendant of those incarcerated at the Heart Mountain “internment camp,” I have experienced firsthand how this event in history not only affected my grandfather, great-grandparents and community elders, but how its aftermath continues to affect me as a fifth-generation Japanese American. As a result, I will never stop working for social justice.

I’m not alone. Your letter also made all of my colleagues in the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American organization of its kind) want to reinvest in our work—which includes, but is not limited to, educating others on the injustice of the World War II incarceration. More important than telling our story or preserving our history, however, is our strong desire to never let this happen to any other group ever again. Whether it’s Muslim or Arab Americans in a post-9/11 society, or the blacks and Latinos who are frequent victims of racial profiling, it’s attitudes like the one in your letter that remind us that we must never become complacent. We are not in the business of simply being angry and upset about what the government should or shouldn’t have done; we’re passionate about ensuring fair and equal treatment to all Americans. We don’t want anyone else to experience what we as a community went through.

You question, “How could we have known if all Japanese Americans were loyal?” But really, you could use that same argument with any ethnic group—or any religion, race, or background, for that matter. But don’t you think that, in “the land of the free,” whether you’re an American citizen (as a third of those incarcerated were) or an immigrant to this country, that if you are accused of a crime, you should be entitled to a fair trial? Innocent-until-proven-guilty was not a privilege afforded to Japanese Americans (as well as some German and Italian Americans). Just as we saw when men wearing turbans became instant suspects following the September 11th attacks, sheer ancestry is not enough of a compelling argument to incarcerate women, men and children—especially in a nation that prides itself on its commitment to justice, and is in fact, built by countless immigrants of all ethnicities.

Additionally, you state that “the government was not simply being racist.” Of course not. However, it was the U.S. government that officially came to the conclusion that racism played a large part. The World War II incarceration was “based on racial prejudice, war hysteria and lack of political leadership—not military necessity.” This was outlined in the Civil Liberties Act (H.R.442/S.1053) signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This bill, for all intents and purposes, was the United States’ way of trying to set the record straight and apologizing for what it considers today to be a grave injustice.

Mr. Massick, you have every right to freely speak your mind, and to have opinions that are vastly different from my own. However, I am writing to you today on behalf of your Japanese American community members, neighbors and fellow Washington college graduates to be more considerate; and to consider the power and effect of your words. Many of my friends and colleagues in the JACL, like you, are also proud to be Dawgs. In fact, the University of Washington Nikkei Alumni Association (UWNAA) recently celebrated its 90th birthday in 2013.

Nikkei (people of Japanese ancestry not living in Japan) have a long proud history at the University of Washington. Although it was not known publicly at the time, UW’s President Lee Paul Sieg was an advocate for Japanese Americans during World War II: He wrote to other college presidents, asking them to accept his students. The purple-and-gold school showed its support once again in 2008 when it gave honorary degrees to the 450 Japanese Americans who were forced to abandon their studies in 1942. 

Mr. Massick, should you ever want to discuss or learn more about this important issue, the Japanese American Citizens League’s door is always open to you, and to all who seek to preserve freedom, justice and civil liberties.

I was outraged to see the large bold font on page six of the June Columns that read, “Perhaps it could have been handled differently. It wasn’t. Get over it.” This came from a misinformed letter writer trying to justify the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II because of the threat of the Japanese military. The letter stated, “Over the years, a popular myth has developed in which an entirely innocent Japanese American population was tossed into concentration camps in a fit of racist paranoia.” This is not a myth; 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds U.S. citizens and half under the age of 18, were placed in concentration camps because of their Japanese ancestry and were not given trials. This action was taken even though no Japanese

American was convicted or found guilty of spying or sabotage during World War II.

Eighteen years ago, former UW Regent Scott Oki and I founded Densho to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We believe it is important that we don’t just “get over it.” Keeping this story alive helps us value our freedoms, especially during the dark times of war when freedoms and principles are so easily lost.
TOM IKEDA, ’79, ’83

By writing about the so-called necessity to incarcerate the Japanese, Mr. Massick served to remind us we need to keep talking about the constitutional violations of minority groups whether racial, religious, sexual orientation, or beliefs. We can’t fall prey to the “Chicken Little” syndrome that afflicted him and simply look at a human rights disaster and flippantly dismiss it. The same thinking that led to the imprisonment of West Coast Japanese in 1941 still exists in 2014. Chicken Little lives on.

As a longtime scholar of what is often called the Japanese American internment, I was greatly disturbed by both the historical errors in James W. Massick’s letter and its belligerent tone. Massick portrays the U.S. government’s mass wartime confinement of Japanese Americans as a sensible reaction to a military emergency, and then concludes, “The war was a time of national emergency when our government did things that we, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight from 70 years distance, wish they had not done. Perhaps it could have been handled differently. It wasn’t. Get over it.”

Building on a consensus judgment by scholars (some of whom began publishing during the war itself), in the 1980s the CWRIC, an official historical commission, reported that President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 and the official confinement that resulted from it were not a response to military conditions, and instead reflected racism, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. The U.S. government ratified this judgment in 1988 by enacting an official apology and redress payment to Japanese Americans.

Massick’s charges have so often been refuted: There were no documented cases of disloyal activity by any West Coast Japanese American, before or after Pearl Harbor. The handful of incidents where West Coast targets were shelled by Japanese submarines occurred after the decisions for exclusion had already been taken, and so could not have been a factor in them. (It is instructive to compare these with the large-scale sinking of ships by German submarines in the Atlantic, which did not lead to calls for roundup of German Americans). The West Coast Army officials and political leaders who led the call for mass removal of Japanese Americans did not pay attention to the situation in the Philippines, which was irrelevant—any more than they did to Hawaii, where Japanese Americans made sterling contributions to the defense effort.

Massick can’t have it both ways. If official actions were justifiable under the circumstances —and the body of evidence shows that they certainly were not—then there is no reason to wish the government had acted differently. If not, then he agrees that Japanese Americans were unjustly stripped of their liberty without due process, lost their homes and property, and had their families divided. It takes some brass in that case for Massick to tell them to get over it, or us as Americans to forget it.

I was stunned to read the letter from James W. Massick, and his dismissal of the World War II incarceration of some 120,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens. He is right about one thing: hindsight is 20-20. And I would hope, after he has had the benefit of that very hindsight, his regret for such comments will be as sharp as his tongue.

James Massick’s contrarian view on the internment of Japanese Americans at the start of World War II prompts me to share my revision in thinking informed by Howard Blum’s recent book Dark Invasion. It recounts an extensive program of sabotage by German Americans and German residents during World War I. Ships supplying Britain with needed supplies were sunk at sea by clever incendiary devices planted by German saboteurs operating on East Coast waterfronts. Storage depots were set afire, detonating tons of critical armaments. This now-forgotten terrorist campaign would certainly been in the minds of policy makers after Pearl Harbor. As tragic as the internment was for nearly all Japanese Americans caught up in it, it may have been a prudent policy to protect the U.S.

Latino Muscle

Cristóbal J. Alex states (It’s Time to Flex Our Muscle, June): “We [Latinos] stay away from elections because we don’t see folks that look like us, sound like us, or reflect our community.” This is understandable, but do you not see that this is the very heart and foundation of racism? If we all shun those who don’t look, sound, and feel like family to us, then we, as a participatory democracy, are doomed.

Big Hitter

Thanks for the piece on Wayne Gittinger (In Memory, June). As an alumnus of the UW baseball program, I feel sadness at his passing but joy that he was a player for the Diamond Dawgs. He and his wife Anne were such contributors to the UW, especially Husky baseball. 

Coach Pete

I think UW got the better deal when it hired Chris Petersen as its new coach than USC did in hiring Steve Sarkisian. They are going to demand championships year after year at USC, and in today’s world of college sports, they are going to be deeply disappointed. Now, all Washington has to do is start beating Oregon again.

For three years, we’ve been waiting for our team to “take the next step.” Thank you, Coach Sarkisian, for bringing us back to a state of semi-respectability. I think Coach Peterson is going to leap over the step and firmly plant us at the top.

[Coach Steve Sarkisian] was never able to get “his kids” over the proverbial hump. And please don’t tell me about success measured by bowl appearances. In today’s BCS era, anyone with a .500 record is guaranteed a bowl game.

Putting down UW’s most recent coach, who greatly improved the team from where they were before, isn’t helpful. Coach Sark did some good things and left Coach Pete with a good foundation. I do believe the newest coach will be the one to take the Huskies to the next level.

Preventing Overdose

How can I get one of those Naxolone drug-overdose prevention kits (Overdose Rx, June)? I’m in Texas and would value a safety thing like this on hand.

Thank you, Ryan. I’m a nurse psychotherapist (class of 1989) with family history that includes suicide. Every home-emergency kit should include this lifesaving kit as well as college dorms.