Clyde Sakamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Legacies are clearest looking back. As Sansei, plainly seeing our generational outcome is probably beyond our reach. From my family, personal, work and community experiences, my “Sansei Legacy guess-timation” sees one general theme: service through learning.

Our Nisei parents, facing bread-and-butter needs as well as seeking better futures for their children, saw the value of educating their children. Just as more Sansei completed college and university credentials, more Yonsei and their children are experiencing pre- and graduate schools than in previous generations. Additionally, Sansei interactions through the internet, television and travel multiply learning about people, places and ideas like no other period in our collective history. Learning through formal education and informal sources will shape the Sansei legacy through its continuing contributions and impact beyond the Japanese community. Both credentials and unstructured learning contribute to an underlying service motivation among many Sansei.

Beginning with our Nisei parents, economic necessity framed the Sansei learning logic: training, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and public and higher education would tie their children to improving economic futures. In many families, pursuing education-related careers embedded with service to the larger community combined to present a compelling opportunity, especially due to limited employment choices for post-World War II Sansei. The number of Sansei serving in public educational institutions offers an example that many will recognize. For a number of decades, Nisei and Sansei teachers and administrators in our public schools led learning in our state. My aunty, Helen Ikeda, a nisei, was the first Hawai‘i state Department of Education teacher in our family. She was also the first to study on the Mainland, where she obtained a teaching degree and taught at Wai‘anae and Konawaena elementary schools. My sansei sister, Wendy Sakamoto Kuniyuki, also enjoyed a teaching career at Ka‘ahumanu School. Our family connection to education will likely parallel many other Sansei families who served public education roles in Hawai‘i.

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