Matsuda, Kiyohara, Lau among Golden Circle Awards Honorees

    Matsuda, Kiyohara, Lau among Golden Circle Awards Honorees

    By Bruce Rutledge
    For The North American Post

    Three pillars of Seattle’s Asian American community were honored at this year’s Golden Circle Awards gala on January 27. OCA Greater Seattle bestowed the awards on Beatrice “Bea” Kiyohara, Larry Matsuda and Alan Lau. A fourth Golden Circle was given to the University of Washington’s Department of American Ethnic Studies.

    ▲Right: Author and artist Alan Lau (l) poses with emcee Harold Taniguchi. The fourth Golden Circle Award went to the Department of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington. Photos courtesy of Tom Trudnowski

    The gala, held at the Ding Fung Restaurant in Seattle, featured comments by OCA-GS President Connie So, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and the award winners. Harold Taniguchi was the emcee.

    In his acceptance speech, Matsuda didn’t mince words: “America’s democracy is in danger and I say that as someone who was born in an American concentration camp, incarcerated because of racism, propaganda (now fake news), and failed leadership…If you do nothing, keep in mind that dictators and tyrants love bystanders.”

    Bea Kiyohara was honored for a life spent as “an educator, college administrator, actor, theatre director, board member, community volunteer, activist, mother and grandmother,”

    Alyssa Au wrote in the gala’s program notes. Kiyohara has spent her years as a catalyst for the arts. She retired in 1993 as the artistic director for the Northwest Asian American Theatre, having helped launch the careers of Richard Eng, Leslie Ishii, Amy Hill and many others.

    Lau has also been advocating for the arts for decades. After traveling the Silk Road in 1970 and ending up in Kyoto, where he learned sumi-e, he settled in Seattle and began a long career as an artist, critic, book reviewer and editor at the International Examiner.

    “Art is like the soul of any community,” he was quoted as saying in the gala’s program. “And if you don’t have art and culture, the community, I think, has no spiritual voice and something in it is really lacking.”

    The fourth Golden Circle Award went to UW’s American Ethnic Studies Department, which boasts an illustrious list of alumni who contribute in myriad ways to the local community.

    Department Chair Rick Bonus and Connie So were on hand to accept the award for the department.

    The following is the complete text of Larry Matsuda’s Golden Circle Award acceptance speech.

    ▲Writer, educator and mentor Larry Matsuda talks of “the dire challenges facing us” in his acceptance speech

    Happy New Year, I would like to thank OCA for this honor and recognition.

    Also I want to thank my wife Karen. Without her none of this would have been possible. Finally, I want to congratulate the other award winners: UW American Ethnic Studies, Alan Lau and Bea Kiyohara.

    ▲Beatrice “Bea” Kiyohara accepts her Golden Circle Award for a career dedicated to the performing arts. 

    This award honors my past achievements but right now there are more important things than the past—namely the dire challenges facing us.

    Currently America is divided into two—one group believes in lies, fake news, greed, hate, racism, revising history, conspiracy theories and using failed leaders to move their agendas.

    The other America in contrast believes more in facts, science, empathy, justice and equality.

    So the stakes are high. In less than 12 months we could have a president for life, decisions and executive orders based on hate, greed, revenge and chaos.

    America’s democracy is in danger, and I say that as someone who was born in an American concentration camp, incarcerated because of racism, propaganda (now fake news) and failed leadership.

    Since those causes are alive and well today, I ask you, “What will you do in the next few months to ensure that ‘liberty and justice’ is still for all?”

    What will you do to ensure that future OCA award ceremonies continue to celebrate progress towards social justice?

    The past is gone and the future is upon us. Make sure it is the future you want for your children and grandchildren.

    If you do nothing, keep in mind that dictators and tyrants love bystanders.

    ▲This year’s Golden Circle Awards winners (from left to right) were the Department of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington (represented by OCA-GS President Connie So and Department Chair Rick Bonus), Alan Lau, Bea Kiyohara and Larry Matsuda. Photo courtesy of Tom Trudnowski

    Whatever you decide—whether it is making a political contribution, running for office, sending a letter to the editor, marching in protest or contributing to the ACLU, OCA or Tsuru for Solidarity—just do it. And just do it now.

    If you are unable, a quote from Gandalf, the wizard from The Lord of the Rings, is relevant. He said, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check but that is not what I have found. I found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.”

    Gandalf the grey and who later became Gandalf the white.

    As we enter this new year, may we all strive to be dragons. Not ordinary dragons but ones who possess the wisdom, energy and passion of Wizards.

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

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    Bruce Rutledge worked as a journalist in Japan for 15 years before moving to Seattle to found Chin Music Press, an independent book publisher located in Seattle's historic Pike Place Market.