MERCED - University of California, Merced, Trustee John Y.
Tateishi, an activist for civil rights, has won this year’s Alice
and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and
Tolerance, awarded by a committee at the newest UC campus.
The $10,000 award comes from an endowment to the university from
Sherrie Spendlove, given in honor of her parents to recognize a
scholar, author, artist, or citizen whose work exemplifies the
delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance in local and
“In our lives as educators and public servants, we have drawn
strength from our sense of responsibility that the injustices of
society must be addressed and that our youth must develop an ethic
of tolerance,” Alice and Clifford Spendlove once wrote. “What is
local is now global, and what is global is now local. Social
justice, diplomacy and tolerance are relevant concepts for citizens
whatever their identity. We hope that the prize will honor those
who promote and act on these beliefs.”
Tateishi has been involved with Asian American communities for
nearly 30 years, gaining national prominence in 1978 when he
launched a national campaign to seek redress for Japanese Americans
interned in U.S. detention camps during World War II.
“This recognition means a great deal because of the connection
between my work with Japanese Americans and the Central Valley
where UC Merced resides,” said Tateishi. “I look forward to
continuing interaction with the campus community and helping to
prepare the next generation to take the torch and continue working
for justice and tolerance.”
As the National Redress Director of the Japanese American
Citizens League (JACL), Tateishi crafted the legislative and public
affairs strategies of the campaign that successfully culminated in
1988 with an apology from the president and Congress, and monetary
redress for internment victims.
From 1999 to 2006, he served as national executive director of
the Japanese American Citizens League, the nation’s oldest and
largest Asian American civil rights organization, undertaking the
challenge of shepherding the 73-year-old organization into the new
millennium. The JACL honored him for his years of dedication in a
special ceremony in May 2007.
Tateishi’s leadership in the redress campaign prompted the BBC
to make him the focus of a television special in England, and NHK
Television in Japan produced a two-hour documentary on him and his work.
He has appeared before public audiences throughout the country
as well as in the media; authored “And Justice for All,” an oral
history of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans; and
served as a contributing author to “Last Witnesses,” a collection
of essays by the children of the WWII internment camps.
Tateishi was a senior fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy
and Social Research for the 2001-02 academic year and was a
founding trustee of UC Merced.
“The injustice of the Japanese-American internment during World
War II has lessons to teach us even today as we find ourselves in
another unfortunate time of war,” Sherrie Spendlove said. “It is my
fervent hope that our democratic constitution will never again
allow such a travesty of justice to take place within the United
States of America.”
Spendlove’s intention is that John Tateishi will serve as a role
model and inspiration for students, faculty and the community
surrounding UC Merced.
The prize winner spends one year “in residence” at UC Merced,
working on projects that further the goals of the prize, including
lectures, publications, demonstrations and exhibitions. In the end,
the recipient is expected to produce or provide a legacy that would
be retained at UC Merced, such as a publication or an artistic production.
The selection committee is made up of a representative from the
Spendlove family or designee; an undergraduate student; a graduate
student; a faculty member; and one or two representatives from the
UC Merced community.
The first award, given at campus opening in 2005, went to Dr.
Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Merced native who is now a law professor
and the founding executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston
Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University. He served as
the keynote speaker for UC Merced’s opening ceremonies.
“We are fortunate at UC Merced to have connections with many
individuals who merit recognition for far-reaching social and
cultural work,” said UC Merced’s Interim Dean of the School of
Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts and Acting Vice Provost for
Academic Planning Hans Bjornsson, who served on the selection
committee. “However, this year our choice was clear - John Tateishi
has demonstrated persistent faith in the triumph of justice and
worked toward that triumph in a spirit of diplomacy and tolerance.
We could think of no more deserving recipient for the Alice and
Clifford Spendlove Prize.”