Post written by Chris Brusatte, Director of Education & Exhibits at Go For Broke National Education Center
Footsteps. That is perhaps what archives and historical documents leave us. A well-worn path, trodden by the footsteps of those who have gone before us. The person may be gone, but his marks remain along the path. His journey may be over, but it can influence ours which is just beginning.
Some of our oral histories acknowledge this fact rather straight-forwardly. For example, World War II veteran Hideo Kami told us that his interview will help “show others that what we did is for our country, and then I hope that they’ll follow our footsteps.” Yoshio Matsumoto concurs. “You should be grateful for the things that people who have gone before have done for you. Don’t take things for granted.” Jun Shiosaki wants young people today to seek out the path already trod before them by the Nisei veterans, who “paved the way and gave the younger generations the opportunity to do the things that they’re doing.”
So the path is there. The footsteps remain. Our life of courage can begin by following their valorous steps. But we also have to extend the effort ourselves and know that our situations are sometimes different. As Masaji Inoshita told our interviewers, “I’m not telling you, you gotta do this, I’m not telling you you gotta follow a certain principle. I got to tell you, you have to follow your own heart.” So the footsteps are there, but we must actively see which parts of the path most fit our modern situations. As Inoshita continued, “You have to find out for yourself what you have to do to make this world smoother and rounder.”
Such powerful words, such wise words. The lessons of the past are there for us, ever present as our guides. But we too must exert effort in adapting them to our own situations. And in the end, it completely falls to us whether we follow their courageous example or forget about their lives, much to our own peril. Ultimately it’s up to us. The footsteps are there, the path is in front of us, but we have to make the effort to start the journey. As veteran Richard “Dick” Narasaki told us, “no doubt that our experience is important. But how the next generation reacts to it is something else again. I don’t know whether they’ll look upon it and think, ‘That’s somebody else’s life; it has no effect on mine,’ or whether they will take it to heart saying ‘Hey, they gave us a building block, let’s build on it.’”
Our archives are here for your guidance. The footsteps remain visible. Let’s build on it.