A | More | Perfect | Union --  Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution
The Japanese American ExperienceReflectionsCollection SearchResourcesCredits

click to enlarge Justice
Japanese Americans Today

The wartime experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry holds important lessons for all Americans. Japanese Americans demonstrated the importance of courage in adversity, loyalty to the highest ideals of the U.S. Constitution, and the ability of determined citizens to effect positive change. Through their struggle to ensure that all Americans understand the importance of extending the safeguards and protections of the Constitution to every citizen, regardless of race, color, or creed, they have moved all of us a bit closer to that "More Perfect Union" envisioned by the founders of the nation.

click to enlarge click to enlarge click to enlarge

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Prior to World War II, no American of Japanese ancestry had ever held a major state or national elective office. Since 1952, Japanese Americans have filled important posts throughout local, state, and federal governments. Post-war Nisei political involvement began at the local level, as returning veterans and former camp inmates won election to city councils and state and territorial legislatures. Americans of Japanese ancestry played a particularly important role in the Hawaiian statehood movement.

Sparky Matsunaga: We Were Born on American Soil (oral history transcript)

click to enlarge

Authorized by an Act of Congress in 1992, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF) constructed the National Memorial to Patriotism to honor the courage and loyalty of Japanese Americans under extraordinary circumstances during World War II. It also honors the nation itself, for its admission of error to the citizens of the United States, and its formal apology to Japanese Americans through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The memorial opened to the public in June 2001.

Senator Daniel Inouye: The Price Was Very Heavy (oral history transcript)

click to enlarge click to enlarge click to enlarge

click to enlarge

"You may think that the Constitution is your security — it is nothing but a piece of paper. You may think that the statutes are your security — they are nothing but words in a book. You may think that elaborate mechanism of government is your security — it is nothing at all, unless you have sound and uncorrupted public opinion to give life to your Constitution, to give vitality to your statutes, to make efficient your government machinery." Charles Evan Hughes, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

Morgan Yamanaka: Could it Happen Again? (oral history transcript)

Postscript from the Smithsonian

The National Museum of American History, Behring Center opened the exhibit "A More Perfect Union" in celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in 1987. A traveling exhibit with the American Library Association then launched its tour between 1995-1998. The themes presented in this exhibit still resonate today: its story, lessons, and poignancy provide insight in a world of uncertainty and a time of national crisis. The events following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. have reminded the nation of the frailty of individual rights balanced with the need for national security. More than ever, the country needs to be mindful of the Constitutional rights of every citizen, regardless of race, color, or creed. We hope that you have enjoyed this "virtual" exhibit and hope that you will visit the physical exhibit at the Smithsonian.

We would like to hear how this exhibit has touched you, your personal story about World War II, or your reflections about how the events presented in this exhibit relate to the events of today. Please visit the Reflections section of the site to share your stories and ideas.

Smithsonian - National Museum of American History - Behring Center