Japanese-American group to honor former House Speaker Jim Wright

Posted Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Three decades after trying to right a wrong — and apologize to Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II — former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright will be honored for his effort on the issue.

Wright, 90, will be presented with the first Gov. Ralph L. Carr Award for Courage tonight in Washington, D.C., for his work to pass what ultimately became the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

“I proposed legislation to acknowledge to these people, citizens of the United States who were incarcerated, that we were ready to resume our honor,” said Wright, a former Democratic U.S. Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader. “I think we’ve done that by acknowledging the wrong of it and making restitution.”

Wright will receive the award — designed to honor a person “who embodies the principles and sacrifices” of Carr, a former Colorado governor who encouraged residents in his home state to welcome displaced Japanese evacuees — tonight during the 2013 Japanese American Citizens League National Convention.

“We recognize that Speaker Wright’s leadership resulted in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 ... the first presidential apology to an entire group of Americans,” said Priscilla Ouchida, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, the largest and oldest Asian-American civil rights group.

The group is honoring Wright for his work that began in 1983 to formally propose recommendations for the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

The measure formally apologized to Japanese-Americans forced out of their homes and into internment camps, or “war relocation centers,” during the war as military members moved into the area.

Around 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were affected — nearly two-thirds of them American-born citizens.

“We weren’t keeping with the constitutional rights and provisions of law ... in a time of severe crisis,” Wright said. “We were certainly in a period of anxiety.

“But I had known all these years that it wasn’t in keeping with the pledge of liberty and justice for all.”

The measure he worked on for years was ultimately signed into law in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, giving former detainees $20,000 and a letter of apology from the United States government.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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