Shigeki Sugiyama: My name is Shigeki Sugiyama. My grandfather, Matsutaro, came to Alameda sometime before 1910. My father, Keiichiro, came to Alameda in 1912 with my grandmother Tane when he was fourteen years old. Their first home was on Oak Street, adjacent to City Hall. My father married my mother, Shizue, in 1924, and I was born in December of 1927. My father worked as a gardener, and we lived on Lincoln Avenue near Walnut Street all through the 1930s Depression years. I attended Porter School from the second grade through the eighth. I also went to the Alameda Japanese language school every day after attending Porter school. The Japanese school was located adjacent to the Buddhist Temple. I also attended the Sunday school of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda every Sunday.

I graduated from Porter school in January 1942. I attended Alameda High School for only four weeks, and that was because my parents were classified as "enemy aliens" and were ordered out of Alameda by the government. My brothers, Yoshito and Masami, and three sisters, Atsuko, Satoko, and Kiyomi, accompanied our parents to French Camp. Two and a half months later, we were moved by the government to the Manzanar reception center in Inyo County, renamed the Manzanar War Relocation Center. In November of 1943, at my father's request, my family moved from Manzanar to the Topaz War Relocation Center. At both Manzanar and Topaz, I worked after school as a hospital orderly. At Topaz, I was able to visit several of the high schools outside of Topaz as a member of the Topaz High School drama club. Some Japanese Americans today insist on calling the relocation centers "concentration camps." I disagree. The relocation centers were essentially like the Indian reservations into which Native Americans were herded in the 19th century. The significant difference was that we were provided an army-type barrack housing, substantial food, schooling for the children, and medical treatment in the hospital. We established our own churches. Almost all camp activities, including the mess halls, were run by the Japanese themselves. Moreover, we were encouraged to leave at any time, providing we had a place to go and to work outside the West Coast. Today I tend to think of the camps has having been sanctuaries, especially for the Issei, the non-citizen Japanese.

I left Topaz on my own in July 1944, and relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to finish high school and to try to get into the University of Michigan. Classmates told me that the University of Michigan wouldn't admit me or accept me because I was Japanese. At Ann Arbor I worked in the kitchen of a university residence hall while attending University High School. I graduated from University High School in June 1945, and enrolled in the University of Michigan in July with a four-year scholarship. Thus Topaz became sort of a gateway to the rest of America. I completed my freshman year in February of 1946, and then dropped out for a semester so that I could work and save some money for my school and living expenses.

But in April 1946, I was drafted into the army. During basic training, I was selected for Officer Candidate School. On graduation from OCS in April 1947, I was commissioned a second lieutenant, infantry. What was originally intended to be three years of service to qualify for forty-eight months of schooling under the GI Bill actually became a twenty-year military career that involved eleven years of service overseas and participation in two wars, Korea and Vietnam. On completing my service in Vietnam, I retired from the army as a lieutenant colonel, army intelligence and security, September 1, 1966.

A week after I returned from the army, I enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, graduated in September 1967 with a BA in political science, and then started my second career as a personal management specialist and advisor in the U.S. Civil Service Commission's regional office in San Francisco. In November 1972, I received my fourth promotion at your job in the commission's central office in Washington, D.C. My staff and I were transferred to the new Office of the Special Counsel, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. I had planned the creation of the new agency, and now helped to organized and establish it. My last ten years in government were as a manager and senior executive in what is now the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. I also served a term as the president of the Japanese American Citizens League. I was also invited to the White House on February 19, 1976, when President Gerald Ford signed his proclamation, An American Promise, which repudiated the executive ordered issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that led to the evacuation of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast in 1942. Leaving east from after the signing ceremony, the President stopped to shake my hands and to say a few words to me. I've thought all along that he represented the American people was apologizing to me as a representative of the Japanese American community.

After my second retirement, I attended the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, and graduated in 1994 with a master's degree in shin-Buddhist study. I was ordained a priest of the Jodo Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan, in 2003. I now serve as a volunteer minister's assistant at the Buddhist Temple of Alameda, and teach a class in Shin Buddhism in the Contemporary World. And that is my story in a nutshell, thank you.