“Thank you for . . . the honor and privilege . . .

by James Y. Iha (Chatan-Kadena Sonjin Kai, Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai)
2001 President, Hawaii United Okinawa Association

Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen . . . welcome to the Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s 52nd Installation Banquet. Thank you for joining us this evening. As we begin the new year, I wish to extend my best wishes for a Happy New Year filled with much good fortune and good health.

When the sounds of the New Year celebration subsided, I realized that my term of office as the president of this great organization ended. In retrospect, it was a challenging and rewarding experience with many interesting, enjoyable and memorable activities. I wish to extend my heartfelt thank you for giving me the honor and privilege to serve as your president.

This past year, as we worked toward the attainment of the purpose of this organization — to promote, perpetuate and preserve our Okinawan cultures and values — we conducted many activities with the support, assistance and participation of thousands of Okinawans and Okinawans-at-heart. On behalf of the HUOA, I sincerely thank all of them from our HUOA staff, our officers, Board of Directors, activity chairpersons and committee members, and to those who came to help in an activity or participated in an activity. Thank you very much. Also, on behalf of the HUOA, I extend our highest commendation to the members of the Installation Banquet Committee and all who supported and contributed to this well organized and outstanding activity. Special thank you is extended to my two member clubs — Chatan-Kadena Chojin Kai and the Wahiawa Okinawa Kyoyu Kai who supported and assisted me during my tenure in office.

This evening I would like to recognize the recipients of the prestigious Uchinanchu of the Year Award. To these awardees, with gratitude and appreciation, I extend my sincerest thank you for their contribution not only to their member clubs but also to the HUOA because we fully realize that the strength of the HUOA is highly dependent on the strength and effectiveness of our member clubs. Looking at the recipients, it almost seems as if we are looking at a list of Okinawan Who’s Who in Hawaii. Congratulations on your selection as the Uchinanchu of the Year.

As we begin the second year of the new millennium, a committed and dedicated individual will lead us. I had the good fortune to work with her closely for the past three years. Gladys Tokunaga-Asao is a task-oriented individual who has the network and support of many fellow Uchinanchu and Uchinanchu-at-heart to undertake any task. I have every confidence that she will lead our association to greater heights in effectiveness and efficiency in accomplishing our vision, purpose and objectives. Let us give Gladys, her fellow officers and her administration our full support.

Outgoing president Jimmy Iha exhibits his joy
at receiving a golf putter as his outgoing president's
gift - and vowed to become a professional golfer.
(David Shimabukuro photo)

Finally, in this building dedicated in memory of our Issei, or first generation immigrants from Okinawa, I want to share this evening with two very important Issei in my life. They are my deceased parents. My father, Sonkyu Iha, immigrated to Hawaii in 1905 from Yara Kadena-Chatan at the age of 19, and my mother, Kame Iha, from Nagahama, Yomitan in 1908 as a picture bride. They persevered and raised a family of ten. They instilled in all of us a love and appreciation for Okinawan music, songs and dances and the cultural values that have been expressed in our HUOA themes, such as “Yui Nu Kukuru — Uchinanchu Spirit with Hearts Together,” “Yuimaaru” — working harmoniously together for the common good of all, “Yaaninju” — we are family, and one of my favorites, “Ichariba Chode” — once we meet, we are brothers and sisters. Our theme for this year, “Ichimadin Kanaganatu — Forever Embracing” has a strong cultural significance.

Yes, my parents like your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents are all proud and happy of our accomplishments. They are all here with us this evening and will continue to give us the guidance we need. Let us always remember our Issei and all the Uchinanchu and Uchinanchu-at-heart who have left us with a proud legacy as we face a challenging and promising future in our effort to promote, perpetuate and preserve our Okinawan culture and values.

Thank you very much — Ippe Nihwee Deebiru.