Mrs. Ann Oyama, the Oyama family and distinguished guests. We are here to say goodbye to a dear friend AND leader in our community. It is a great honor to stand before you today to honor a man of integrity, an excellent role-model and mentor to many of us.
In his life, Hank distinguished himself in education, military service to his country, civil rights and service to our community.
Very few of us in our lifetimes, will be remembered as bridge builders. However, when Hank was named Tucson Man of the Year in 1993 by the Metropolitan Tucson Chamber of Commerce and at the dedication of the Henry "Hank" Oyama Elementary School in 2003, much attention was given to Hank being a "master bridge builder." Hank has built linguistic, cultural and legal bridges between communities and countries. His effective contributions have been recognized by the Hispanic, African American, Pan Asian, Jewish and Caucasian Communities.
Hank Oyama's achievements can be said to have started with his military service in the Counter Intelligence Corps of the U.S. Army. Ironically, his military service, Jan- 1945 to June1947, took place after
having been detained a year and a half, along with his mother and sister at the Poston Internment Camp also known as War Relocation Camp. This camp held some 20,000 Japanese-Americans. Hank believed
“it doesn’t really matter what happens to you, what matters is how you react to what happens to you.” In spite of this negative life experience Hank retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He was a true patriot of this country.
Another notable achievement took place when in September 1959 Hank and Mary Ann Jordan wanted to marry. They were denied a marriage license because an Arizona law prohibited interracial marriages. He fought a successful legal battle to repeal Arizona’s Anti-miscegenation law all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court. For this civil rights milestone, the University of Arizona recognized him with an Honorary
Doctorate of Law and on March 20, 2009 the ACLU also recognized him at the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the law.
In our community Hank was known as one of the founding fathers of bilingual education. It all started in 1955, when Hank was selected to be part of the original faculty at the new Pueblo High School. While at Pueblo, Hank was part of a team that planned and executed a curriculum for native Spanish speakers to improve their abilities in both Spanish and English. Their efforts contributed to Pueblo receiving national recognition.
Because of their efforts at Pueblo, and their study and report on Mexican-American students' education, two U.S. Senators introduced legislation creating funding for Bilingual Education.
I had the pleasure of working with Hank on several community projects including the founding of the Hispanic Student Endowment Fund of the Pima Community College Foundation, but with Hank’s passion and tenacity, he single handedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship monies for students enrolled at Pima Community College.
Hank achieved much in other areas of service to the community, the nation and internationally. Just a partial listing includes
Rotary Club of Tucson
Founded the 1st LULAC Council in Tucson
Luz Social Services and Luz Academy
Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson
Arizona Historical Society
Mexican Consulate of Tucson
National Board of Directors of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges
Advisor to the Overseas Liaison Committee of the American Council on Education
Tucson Pima Public Library Board of Directors
TUSD Latino Advisory Council
Department of State delegate to Madrid, Spain on bilingual education
Hank received many awards and recognition too numerous, but just a few I will mention gives us an indication of the high regard others in the community have for Hank:
UA Dr. Martin Luther King “Distinguished Leadership Award”
UA Asian American Faculty, Staff and Alumni Association “Outstanding Alumni Award”
HPAC “Lifetime Achievement Award”
Arizona Minority Bar Association “Champion of Diversity Award”
Pan Asian Community Alliance Man of the Year
Vice President Emeritus, Pima College
LULAC National Presidential Citation
Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave Award”
Hank would always say that there would always be opposition or barriers to prevent you from reaching your goals, but not to let it stop you. That you had to keep trying and to keep moving forward. Believe in yourself. He led a very successful life, but not without sacrifices to make it happen. Ann, thank you and the family for sharing Hank with our community for all these years that he was out there trying to improve the quality of life for our educators, students and the citizens of the City of Tucson. Hank has truly been a great community activist and leader. He has been a great role-model and mentor to me and I’m sure for many others here today.
If you knew Hank the way I had the pleasure of knowing him, though he passed on to his reward, his memory is very much alive in our hearts, and in our minds. We can honor Hank by remembering his family and loved ones in our prayers. Let us honor him this day, and every day we have the occasion of thinking of the man he was and, if we will let our lives be tempered by the example that he lived by, the memory of Hank will live on in everyone of us, and in the lives of all of those we touch.
The following poem was reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. It was also reported that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful,
you win false friends and true enemies,
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
BE HAPPY ANYWAY
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
People really need help but may attack you if you help them,
HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough;
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT…ANYWAY.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
IT WAS NEVER BETWEEN YOU AND THEM ANYWAY.