Mike Honda: Thirty-five years and 92 pounds ago, I went to El Salvador

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 11:13 am: Edit Post

Congressman Mike Honda: Thirty-five years and 92 pounds ago, I went to El Salvador

Congressman Mike Honda: Thirty-five years and 92 pounds ago, I went to El Salvador

Mike Honda: Thirty-five years and 92 pounds ago, I went to El Salvador

Thirty-five years and 92 pounds ago, I went to El Salvador. I am a third-generation Japanese-American who grew up in California and in the south side of Chicago. My family was interned in a camp during the Second World War. What happened to my family made me very angry. Then the Vietnam War started. And I struggled; I wanted to serve my country, but I didn’t really want to go to Vietnam, but if called I would go.

The Peace Corps came along, and it provided me an alternative service to this country. John Kennedy’s statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” set off a series of experiences in my life journey that brought me to this point. My experience in El Salvador taught me more about myself. I learned that I had a capability that was beyond my own understanding, and that the anger could be shifted to positive energies.

Learning the truth and teaching the truth was important, and to give back to our community was important. I learned I could stick it out anywhere; that my limits were self-imposed; that I only would learn if I met those challenges and exceeded those challenges. My self-confidence grew. My understanding and my dedication to this country grew.

When I came back from Peace Corps, I had to do something in teaching. I got involved in student movements. I dropped out of college with one unit to go. I knew I had to go beyond the campus. But when I came back, I came with a vengeance. I got my degrees.

I decided that an Asian-American who speaks fluent Spanish, born in this country, had an advantage. I created a niche for myself in the various community activity by working across cultures and language and communities. That became the groundwork for my political career.

My community was put into camps because of decades of yellow journalism. When we were taken to camp, there was no voice that said, “No.” My mission was to be a voice and an advocate, and a model for other people to show that you can make a difference, you can participate; that politics is not a bad work – it’s a profession that requires understanding people, listening, mediating, caring – all the qualities that I had before, but were not nurtured and cared for until I learned about that in the Peace Corps experience.

In El Salvador I learned that although their circumstances were humble, the people had compassion, pride, culture, language, family, religion. When Reagan came into power, the official reason for going into El Salvador was that we wanted to stop the “domino effect” of Communism. I instinctively knew that that was wrong because, knowing the folks there were strong Catholics, they could never be atheists. Therefore, they could never be true communists; the fight had to be about something else.

That has driven me to participate in community activities and the political process. I urge those of you thinking about joining Peace Corps to do that; it is a Ph.D. program in life. For those who are returned, I urge you to continue to give back to our community, to take what we’ve learned overseas and to apply that back here. Although we’re a developed country, we still have many things that need to be addressed.

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Story Source: Commonwealth Club

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - El Salvador; Congress



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