America Gives My Life Meaning

Patricia Tsubokawa - Davis, California
Entered on June 24, 2005
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in America. I was born in 1951, six years after my family was released from the Japanese-American Internment Camps. During World War II, my elder family was imprisoned by their government. After “camp” they felt shamed, but still loyal to their country, America. My grandfather told me “shi gata ganai,” it could not be helped. My grandmother, mother and father were born in America. I was born in America. My parents made me believe I was the All-American girl.

I knew I looked different. I knew my last name was hard to pronounce because every new teacher struggled to say my name at roll call. I remember being a Brownie Girl Scout. We wore our uniforms to school on meeting days. That little brown dress with matching beanie cap made me look like the other Brownie Scouts. I loved that uniform.

In high school I became a song leader with pom-poms and matching uniforms. By the time I was a senior, everybody could say my name and I felt like I belonged. I was elected student body Vice president and voted onto the homecoming court. I was taught and I believed I was entitled to all of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

I turned 18 in 1969. The war in Vietnam was raging. Young people like myself were idealistic and full of questions. That year Americans walked on the moon. It was the summer of love and the spirit of Woodstock spread over my generation in a wave of anti-establishmentarianism We were looking for new ways to be relevant to our true selves. In 1969, I graduated from Norwalk High School in southern California, I married my surfer boyfriend and we had our first baby on Christmas Day. Those of us born in 1951 grew up with President Truman’s decision to drop the Bomb and President Nixon’s decision to resign.

Many things have happened since those passionate days of my youth. Now I am 54. I am a Japanese-American woman trial attorney representing plaintiffs in discrimination lawsuits against the government. I still believe that everyone is entitled to the civil rights guaranteed by our Constitution. I still believe in my country, with all of its imperfections.

Our values of freedom, honesty, diversity and tolerance are our competitive edge in a world that looks to us to see how we live together. We do not hide our problems. We put them on trial and allow everyone to watch how we try to find justice. Everyday I work towards the ideal of the rule of law. Some days are better than others.

I’m no longer an All-American girl. I’ve grown to be a woman professional in a complicated world with shades of grey all around me. That ambiguity makes me hold on to my belief in America even closer. I now need to believe in my county, America. It gives my life meaning.