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JANM to Recognize Hirono, Herzig Yoshinaga at Gala Dinner

The Japanese American National Museum will hold its annual Gala Dinner and Silent Auction on Saturday, April 21, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, 404 S. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles.

Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga and Sen. Mazie Hirono

The evening’s theme will be “Service to Democracy” and the honorees will be Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and political activist Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga. Both women will receive the museum’s Award of Excellence.

“Sen. Hirono and Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga truly epitomize our Gala Dinner theme of ‘Service to Democracy’ and I look forward to honoring them in April,” said Norman Y. Mineta, dhair of the JANM Board of Trustees. “Each of these women is inspirational to people of all ages and backgrounds and I know our gala attendees will leave the event feeling like they too want to step up their commitment to democracy and act to make a difference in our country.”

Hirono was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and sworn in as Hawaii’s first female senator and the country’s first Asian American woman senator. She serves on the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on the Judiciary, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She is also the ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks.

Born in Fukushima, Hirono was nearly eight years old when her mother brought her and her siblings to Hawaii to escape an abusive husband and seek a better life. She served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1981 to 1994 and earned a reputation as an advocate for consumers and workers. After being elected as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor in 1994, she led efforts to support Hawaii’s tourism industry through visa reform. Voters in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District elected Hirono to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006.

Among other legislative accomplishments, in 2015, Hirono introduced a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Filipino veterans of World War II, in recognition of their service. It was enacted in 2016.

Last December, Hirono and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a fellow member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, introduced the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2017. It is intended to ensure that no individual is imprisoned or detained based on a legally protected characteristic such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Essentially, it is intended to prevent what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II from happening again.

Herzig Yoshinaga was a high school senior when she was incarcerated with her family in the concentration camp for Japanese Americans at Manzanar during World War II. After the war, while living in New York in the 1960s, she became involved with Asian Americans for Action (AAA). This was the start of her political involvement.

After moving to Washington, D.C., Herzig Yoshinaga began looking through National Archives records on the wartime exclusion and incarceration. Over several years, with the help and support of her husband Jack Herzig, she retrieved and cataloged thousands of significant documents. In 1980, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) — whose report and recommendations would the foundation for legislative redress — was created. That same year, Herzig Yoshinaga joined the National Council for Japanese American Redress (NCJAR) and her extensive research supported its class-action lawsuit seeking reparations from the government. The following year, she was hired by the CWRIC and became its lead researcher.

Crucial to the cause of redress was Herzig Yoshinaga’s discovery of the 10th and only still-existing copy of the original printing of the 1942 “Final Report on Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast,” which provided proof that the Army had seen no military necessity to deprive 120,000 individuals of their rights. She was an important contributor to the CWRIC’s 1983 final report, “Personal Justice Denied.” The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed by President Ronald Reagan, finally brought redress and a formal apology from the government to survivors of the incarceration.

The Gala Dinner evening will include JANM’s popular Lexus Opportunity Drawing, for which a new 2018 Lexus NX 300h vehicle will be the prize. Opportunity Drawing tickets are $25 each, $100 for five tickets, and $500 for 30 tickets. They may be requested by calling (213) 830-5669, emailing, or downloading an order form from

Sponsorship and underwriting opportunities for the Gala Dinner are also available. Send an email to for details. Individual tickets for the event will go on sale in March.

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