July 05, 2006


By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

On July 8, 2006, Senator Mike Crapo delivered the keynote address at the 2006 Minidoka Pilgrimage at the Minidoka Internment National Monument. Excerpts of his remarks follow:We cherish freedom, but often take it for granted. The Minidoka Internment National Monument reminds us to actively promote fundamental equalities and freedoms that this nation represents. Because of these immutable values, we can stand here in the name of healing and hope for the future, gathered together to proclaim â??never again.â??Over 65 years ago, this was the site of some very dark days in our nationâ??s history. The incarceration of over 10,000 Japanese American citizens here at Minidoka or â??Camp Huntâ?? as it was also known, represents a blight on the otherwise bright record of respect for human rights that our nation strives to uphold and promote. The Minidoka internees were uprooted from homes, neighborhoods, businesses and friends. With strength, honor and determination, these American citizens not only forged a temporary existence, they--many of you--created a life and a community in the harshest of circumstances. An Idahoan who was himself a prisoner of war and survivor of the Bataan Death March, was asked about this National Monument in an interview with Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. He said, â??I think a memorial should be a part of history, and tell us who was there and how they felt in general, and why they were there. Now, we know that we made a big mistake of imprisoning Japanese Americans. We should never have done it. We should have let them live their own way. We knew a lot of the Japanese, why should you take these fellows and put them in an enclosure away from their homes when they were part of our community? I went to school with these kids. Why punish them? They didnâ??t do anything. And Iâ??ve talked to several of the fellows in the 442ndâ?¦what they went through, they were darn good soldiers.â?? Minidoka had the highest number of military service volunteers of any internment camp in the United States. The willingness of Japanese-Americans to fight and die for their new country is a profound statement on their love for this nation--all the more remarkable considering that they volunteered to defend a country that had imprisoned their own families. They fought with honor and skill and their sacrifice made our freedom today possible. Idaho has seen its share of human rightsâ?? failures and triumphs. It has been frustrating to have our stateâ??s name besmirched by the bigotry and racism of the Aryan Nation movement. Still, the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans stands as a far greater travesty of justice. And, just as communities in North Idaho stood against racial hatred fomented by neo-Nazis, Idahoans have worked collaboratively to right a grievous wrong committed against Americans by Americans in World War II here at Minidoka. The Minidoka Internment National Monument is a tremendous human rights achievement with an exciting future, thanks to the efforts of federal, state and local officials, private landowners and national and local human rights organizations coming together to promote remembrance and education. Perhaps today, we are reliving memories; if not for the first time, then with a different perspective, a new look ahead to educate our children so the nation that we love unflinchingly never so utterly and completely fails its citizens again. Congratulations on committing to this good work of educating our youth about the dangers of fear based on ignorance, bias based on misunderstanding, and empowerment that comes with making amends for terrible sins of the past. WORD COUNT: 597