What It Means to Be American »

The Cuban Missile Crisis Haunts My Dreams, But as a Child I Regarded My Fighter Pilot Dad as a Nuclear Bomb-Smashing Superman

By | February 13, 2017

On a Tuesday morning in mid-October 1962, my father received a phone call ordering him to fly from where we lived, Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base outside Kansas City, Missouri, to Grand Island, Nebraska. He had to leave immediately. He couldn’t tell my mother why, but he did tell her that the president would speak later that night on television, and that she should listen.
My mother …

What It Means to Be American »

The Presidential Practice of Tapping the Moneyed Elite Began with WWI—and Was Surprisingly Scandal-Free

By | February 10, 2017

From our earliest days we Americans have embraced leaders from among the ranks of the nation’s moneyed elite. Voters set the tone when they chose George Washington, the wealthiest man on the continent at the time, as the first president.
But that choice was accompanied by a healthy skepticism of the role of money in the halls of government. As the years went by, recurrent scandals …

What It Means to Be American »

The Passport Went From an Informal Means of Introduction to a Symbol of American Identity

By | February 6, 2017

It was originally a European tradition, not ours. But in 1780, needing a more formal way to send former Continental Congressman Francis Dana from France to Holland, Benjamin Franklin used his own printing press to create a new document. The single-sheet letter, written entirely in French, politely requested that Dana and his servant be allowed to pass freely as they traveled for the next month. …

What It Means to Be American »

For Refugee Children in Baltimore and Their Teacher, Art Is a Sanctuary

By | February 1, 2017

I am an artist and educator pursing an MFA in Community Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Last year, as part of my Master’s studies, I began teaching art to young refugees. The students were participants in the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project (RYP), a grant-funded organization that provides after-school programming for relocated kids. They were just a few of the …

What It Means to Be American »

For a UCLA Biologist, Groundhog Day Celebrates Science, Not Superstition

By | January 31, 2017

I am a scientist who loves Groundhog Day, that least scientific of holidays. Every February, as Punxsutawney Phil shakes the dust off his coat, emerges from his burrow, glances at his shadow (or not) and allegedly prognosticates winter’s end, I gather a group of professors, graduate students, and other assorted science geeks at my UCLA lab to nibble, drink, schmooze, and revel in ground-hoggery in …

What It Means to Be American »

A Jewish Photographer’s Nearly Forgotten “Collaboration” With Cheyenne Indians Provides a Crucial Bridge to History

By | January 27, 2017

On a cold day in late November 1853, in a place called Big Timbers, in what is today southeastern Colorado, a Jewish photographer named Solomon Nunes Carvalho hoisted his ten-pound daguerreotype camera onto a tripod and aimed his lens at a pair of Cheyenne Indians. At first glance, the resulting image, scratched and faded from years of neglect, seems unremarkable. But in fact it is …

What It Means to Be American »

How the Dallas Cowboys–“America’s Team”–Helped the City Recover From JFK’s Assassination

By | January 24, 2017

Watching my Dallas Cowboys fall to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday on the last play of the game in an instant classic of an NFC Divisional Playoff, I couldn’t help but think back to my grandfather.
The first time I recall watching the ‘boys play, in the 1970s, I was knee high to him, paying more attention to the gun case where he kept …

What It Means to Be American »

How a Segregated Regiment of Japanese Americans Became One of WWII’s Most Decorated

By | January 19, 2017

In January 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his War Department abruptly reversed course by allowing Japanese Americans to enlist in the U.S. Army in the fight against Germany and Japan.
This was not a foregone conclusion: The draconian mass removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans had been justified as a military necessity—and continued to be enforced. Two-thirds of those incarcerated were American-born Nisei, …

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The Intel Report That Could’ve Stopped Japanese American Internment

By | January 18, 2017

In spring 1941, months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a team led by U.S. Naval Intelligence officer Kenneth Ringle broke into the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles.
One man stayed downstairs to guard the elevator while the rest snuck upstairs using skeleton keys to make their way to the back rooms. They brought along a safecracker—a convicted felon sprung for one night to help …

What It Means to Be American »

The Pain of Remembering My Incarceration as an American Japanese Is Deep, But the Danger in Forgetting Is Far Worse

By | January 18, 2017

I am a member of a once despised minority group, American Japanese, who spent three and a half years incarcerated in an American concentration camp during World War II. Although that ordeal ended 72 years ago, the impact of that experience on my life and its broader implications for American society resonate deeply to this day.
In 1941, at the beginning of the war, roughly 10 …

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