Speech by SEC Commissioner:
Remarks Before the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Program
Commissioner Paul S. Atkins
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
May 8, 2007
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am honored to introduce our guest speaker, Representative Mike Honda. I would like to especially thank Dhaval Patel and David Hsu for arranging for him to speak today.
As the Chairman noted, Mike Honda represents the 15th Congressional District of California. While he has been serving in that role since 2001, his career in public service began long before.
Born in Walnut Grove, California, six months prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor, he learned at an early age about the importance of civil rights. He was only 8 months old when in February 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry - the majority of whom were U.S. citizens - to be forcibly removed from the West Coast and incarcerated in internment camps.
Representative Honda and his family were among those swept up by the government. They, along with about 7,500 other persons, were taken to camp called Amache, located in an isolated spot in southeast Colorado. Despite being held behind barbed wire, guard towers, and jeep patrols, over 900 Japanese Americans from the Amache camp would volunteer to serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Thirty-one of these individuals would ultimately give their lives in service to their country.
Representative Honda returned to California in 1953, where his family worked as strawberry farmers in San Jose. His entrance into public service came when he interrupted his college studies to join the Peace Corps. He proceeded to earn his undergraduate and graduate degrees from San Jose State University. He went on to a career in education that spanned several decades as a science teacher, a principal, and a school board member.
He was appointed by then-Mayor Norman Mineta to San Jose's Planning Commission in 1971. In 1990, he was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. In 1996, he was elected to the California State Assembly, where he served two terms before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In Congress, Representative Honda serves as chairman of the Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Representative Honda has been a leader in civil rights. As a member of the state assembly, he introduced legislation creating the California Civil Liberties Public Education Board in 1998, which charged with the mission of educating today's students about the Japanese American internment. It seeks to teach the important lesson that we cannot allow ignorance, racial prejudice, and mass hysteria overtake the constitutional protections that form the core of this country's founding principles.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. The lessons learned from this failure of government leadership remains particularly applicable today, especially for those of us who can bring the full weight and authority of the federal government behind our actions. These lessons remind us that, as public servants, we must be ever vigilant not to permit the needs of expediency or efficiency triumph over due process and constitutional rights.
I look forward to his remarks today and the insights he brings to our celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Please join me in welcoming Representative Mike Honda to the SEC.