News

Push to honor Fred Yamamoto continues

Group plans scholarships but also seeks to 'build empathy and understanding'

Palo Altan Fred Yamamoto, who fought and died in WWII, did not get a Palo Alto middle school named after him last week, but the movement to recognize his contributions to the community goes on.

Over the weekend, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to raise money for one or more scholarships recognizing graduating high school seniors who "demonstrate civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred's spirit," according to the webpage. Palo Alto resident Sara Armstrong, a member of the school district's Recommending School Names Committee, and others have spearheaded the effort with the cooperation of Yamamoto's family.

As of Monday morning, the fund has raised $7,100, surpassing the goal of $4,420 –- a target symbolic of the regiment with which Fred Yamamoto served in Europe, the all Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team.

"This has been a difficult and painful issue but also presents us with an opportunity to seek to build empathy and understanding," the GoFundMe page states. "Fred's message of faith in American democracy and justice, resilience in the face of discrimination and adversity, and devotion and service to community can be an inspiration to us all."

Some of the donors listed on the page appear to be the same people who spoke at the March 27 Palo Alto Board of Education meeting against naming a school after Fred Yamamoto, citing their association of his surname with that of a despised Imperial Japanese Navy admiral to whom they attribute war crimes against China. At the meeting, a few said that they would support alternate ways to honor the decorated Palo Alto war hero but that they did not want to send their child to a Yamamoto Middle School.

One such resident, Lan Gao, posted a comment with his donation on the GoFundMe page, "I'm by no means against honoring Fred as an individual who is a patriot and a role model for our younger generations."

The effort to rename Jordan and Terman middle schools, sparked in 2015 by the discovery that David Starr Jordan and Lewis Terman endorsed eugenics, garnered unanimous support from the school board in 2017, which then convened a committee to nominate new namesakes. The committee presented its eight recommendations in March and chose as its top pick Fred Yamamoto, a youth leader who was incarcerated in a Wyoming internment camp but nonetheless urged others to continue to believe in the goodness of man. He was among the first to voluntarily join the 442nd.

However, his nomination faced a sudden outpouring of opposition two weeks ago, largely from Palo Alto's first-generation-American Chinese community.

By the time the school board met on March 27, the sharp disagreement had snowballed between that group and a group of Asian-Americans who had hoped to see the first Palo Alto school named after someone of Asian heritage. More than 60 people spoke before the school board, almost all advocating for or against renaming a school after Fred Yamamoto.

Citing the division in the community, the school board voted to rename Jordan after pioneering African-American technologist Frank S. Greene Jr. and Terman after Holocaust survivor and longtime City Councilwoman Ellen Fletcher.

Some board members said their decision not to choose Fred Yamamoto stemmed solely from a desire to bridge divisions.

"No matter what gets decided here tonight, we need to talk to each other more," Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza said. "I think that because we are progressive Palo Alto, we either think we don't (have issues) or we don't talk about them but this has illuminated the issues that are in our community.

"Whether we pick Yamamoto or Adobe Creek or whatever else tonight, those issues are still going to be there," she said.

DiBrienza is among those who donated to the GoFundMe campaign over the weekend.

The scholarships will be awarded at the close of the current school year, the webpage states. The scholarship effort is not planned as a multiyear fund unless the amount collected allows for additional scholarships in future years.

In addition to the scholarships, the Yamamoto group is exploring the possibility of naming a place in Palo Alto — such as a park or building -- after Fred Yamamoto, according to an email sent by Armstrong. A Google group is forming to discuss the idea.

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Comments

64 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 10:55 am

Fred Yamamoto is an American hero whose name has now been dragged through the mud. If I were his family, I'd return the money of the hypocrites who spoke out against his name [portion removed.]

God bless Fred Yamamoto.


62 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

Hugo, I am not seeing anyone dragging Fred Yamamoto's name through the mud. I think the issue is the emotional associations for some people are negative. I don't know anything about Fred Yamamoto myself, and I am no history expert, though I read about history a bit. I don't think it is a good name for the school, but I mean no disrespect to anyone when I say that. What is the evidence you have to make that claim?

Personally, I'd like to see schools or public places not named after people, or corporations, except under very strict circumstances. Naming things after people runs the risk of these random negative associations that can cause divisiveness and conflict between well-meaning people.


21 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:33 am

Naming schools or parks after formerly local individuals is a slippery slope. Palo Alto has had many noteworthy residents in the last 100 years. No choice will be met with universal approval as everyone has his/her own favorites, many of whom have nothing to do with education.
For school names, it seems more appropriate to honor known local educators, provided that they had no association with non-PC studies, however long ago. In the town where I attended elementary school, both my kindergarten teacher & my 7th grade home room teacher now have schools named for them. Other than that, I recommend sticking with either the street or neighborhood names (Green Gables was better than Duveneck) such as Addison, or directionals. Terman could have been South or West Middle.
Mr. Yamamoto obviously has a big fan club as I'm sure the other non-winners of this popularity contest do but is every former resident who did something brave, heroic, creative, innovative, etc. entitled to memorialization? If so, the line is way too long. Surely the list of heroes from WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf War, & the current unnamed Middle East conflict yields former students too. In any case, there's been too much controversy & divided opinion over this whole re-naming deal. How about leaving names as they are & as residents know them?


21 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

@Hugo

As far as I know, nobody denied the fact that Mr. Yamamoto is an American hero.

I strongly suggest you to talk to board and all of people who refused to use Fred Terman to name the school.

Let's care about all Fred's.

Personally speaking, I am against using any persons name for pa schools. It's an unfortunate mistake that may cost us money and time again.


8 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:41 am

[Post removed.]


51 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

We wouldn't be talking about this today had the school board not rolled over to grease the squeaky wheel of a seventh grader and his father's insistence that Jordan and Terman middle schools be renamed, despite the wishes of the majority of Palo Altans to leave the names as they were.

We should all remember this fiasco when school board members come up for re-election and vote them out. We can also think twice about donations to PiE. Maybe they'll finally get it. In a true democracy, majority rules.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Apr 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm

[Portion removed.]

Really, though, the focus should be on honoring Fred Yamamoto. Dancing around the issue and offering alternatives after what went doesn't cut it. How about something a little more concrete?

From the article:

"However, his nomination faced a sudden outpouring of opposition two weeks ago, largely from Palo Alto's first-generation-American Chinese community."

Legal immigrants from all nations should be welcomed here. Immigrants or native born, from any nation, should expect to receive the same amount of tolerance that they show to others.


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

I have nothing against Mr. Yamamoto and knew nothing about him until this renaming nonsense came up.

My question is more about how many other war heroes do we have in town? Is Mr Yamamoto more worthy than any other war hero to be honoured? Can we really be trying to honor one war hero without honoring all of them?

My own grandfather, no connection whatsoever with Palo Alto, is considered by us, his family as a war hero. He was humble about his service and spoke rarely about it even to his son, my father, and his wife and other children. Most of what we know about what happened was discovered after his death in papers he kept private. The reason I am mentioning it is that nowhere is there any type of personal memorial to his heroism. There are general war memorials and there is his burial place. His heroism is a family honor and we have some memorabilia that will be passed down so he won't be forgotten. We are proud of him as a family but I have no idea how I would feel if somehow someone wanted him to be honored above his fellow war buddies who were just as heroic.

As I said, I have nothing against Mr. Yamamoto, but is he worthy of being honored above anyone else? Maybe he is, I don't know, but are we really going to start a hierarchy of honorees? And if so, who gets to choose who they are?


11 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 1:04 pm

@Donster you raise an excellent point: "How about something a little more concrete?"

To my knowledge, the City Hall building has no name other than City Hall. Might be a worthy consideration, perhaps.


64 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm

I still can't believe the school board caved to the Chinese Americans who discriminated against a common Japanese name. Doesn't anyone see the irony and hypocrisy here?


15 people like this
Posted by SD
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 2, 2018 at 2:44 pm

I vote for no-person-name school names please. Or just don't change.

Change it to Masscot -Terman Tiger. Kids love calling themselves Tiger. So the name is changed and kids are happy still!!

What have we adults become...now we don't have enough to fight with so started to fight over after whose Ethinic heros should schools be named...are we really behaving like adults ...shame!!!


11 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Apr 2, 2018 at 3:08 pm

To my knowledge, the City Hall building has no name other than City Hall. Might be a worthy consideration, perhaps."

I think that is an excellent idea! If the city won't do it of their own volition, it could be submitted as a ballet measure.


4 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

I would be happy to donate to this. However, I am set up to give to 501c(3) organizations with my personal foundation.

I think you will do a lot better if you set up a non-profit 501c(3).



22 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Name City Hall after a person?? One person out of the many tens of thousands who have lived in Palo Alto?? This is flat out nuts.

Buildings named for Packard, Arillaga, De Young, Davies, et al are because those people donated the major portion (or all) the money to build them. The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco honors all veterans.

Palo Alto City Hall should be called only that. No surname belongs on it. Choosing any one person to "honor" by putting that name on a public building insults all the other heroic former residents over the last 125 years who don't get that distinction.

[Portion removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 2, 2018 at 4:54 pm

I wonder if the PAUSD school board realizes it has sided with the eugenecists on this subissue.


39 people like this
Posted by thanks PAUSD
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 2, 2018 at 5:50 pm

the gift that keeps on giving. thank you school board for caving to a vocal minority on the school renaming issue resulting in unnecessary community divisiveness . You won't get my vote next time nor my $$$


20 people like this
Posted by Richard Ripley
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 2, 2018 at 8:08 pm

[Portion removed.] Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto masterminded the, cowardly, dastardly, unprovoked attack upon the US at Pearl Harbor costing 2000+ American lives and the name still leaves a bitter taste in many of our mouths. The Chinese suffered unbelievable horrors at the cruel, brutal, hands of the Japanese Imperial War Machine. Please respect our pain and anguish.


26 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2018 at 8:42 pm

It is cruel and disingenuous to equate Fred Yamamoto to Hitler or to anyone on the Japanese side of the war, no matter what they may have done. May God have mercy on you for your ignorance.


10 people like this
Posted by oldster
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 2, 2018 at 9:29 pm

I think the people chosen to have schools named after them should have earned that honor rather than just being someone against whom there is no objection. I don't feel that is the case here.


4 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

..., but by the content of their character.


5 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2018 at 11:14 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2018 at 7:52 am

"It is cruel and disingenuous to equate Fred Yamamoto to Hitler or to anyone on the Japanese side of the war, no matter what they may have done. May God have mercy on you for your ignorance."

I think that it is prejudice rather than ignorance. I seriously doubt that anybody is so stupid and uneducated as to confuse Fred Yamamoto of Palo Alto with Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto of Japan. The name similarity seems to be just a smokescreen for an overseas ethnic conflict some are trying to import to the US. We need to put an immediate stop to that.

This issue has grown beyond what the school board can properly handle. It should be put on the ballot and the people allowed to decide. If this is not done, I will vote against any school board members when they come up for reelection. Until all of the current board is replaced, I will vote against every school bond measure on the ballot.


12 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2018 at 8:00 am

"Buildings named for Packard, Arillaga, De Young, Davies, et al are because those people donated the major portion (or all) the money to build them."

Fred Yamamoto gave his life. That is worth more than any amount of money.


5 people like this
Posted by new park
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2018 at 8:42 am

Palo Alto is in need of more park space, we are falling far behind our goal ratios. If people want to name a park after someone, start a fundraising campaign to buy land and build a new park. I think more park space is a cause a lot of people can get behind.

The process of bringing the community together to build a new park in the name of a local a hero in infinitely more valuable than just slapping someone's name on a park other people built. The story of how the community came together to name Yamamoto Park will maybe last a few years, the story of how the community came together to build Yamamoto Park will last lifetimes.


3 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

Honor many victims of Chinese Exclusion Act and victims died in World world II due to Japanese invasion first! Weight the numbers and sufferings of those victim! Who are the real victims!!!


2 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2018 at 10:29 am

Naming school and giving scholarship are two different issues. We encourage and appreciate anyone willing to give scholarship to kids to promote opportunities.


19 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2018 at 2:33 pm

I'm curious. Are there any standard or examination of hopeful school board candidate applicants to see if they have common sense or ability to consider the viewpoints of other the public as well as their board members? This contentious & polarizing squabble over school renaming is solely because 1 middle schooler & his dad used the Terman name as a spotlight to shine on outdated scientific ideas once held by the namee.

I propose that every future candidate for a board seat be asked how he/she/x would address this very question were it to be raised by any helicopter parent looking to soothe the student's "feelings." I'd not consider any candidate who thought changing the school name, especially to a person's name was proposed by his/her relatives. That degrades the process slate to a divisive popularity contest, too foolish for a supposedly smart community.

I'll vote for the candidate who explains that It's good lIfe to accept things that 60-80-100 years & isn't directed at any special snowflakes now attending. I want candidates with spines who can say, "Some of these ideas are wrong & ho longer taught. The person had other valuable qualities as an educator for which we do remember. Here is a lsession which corrects those erroneous & outdated theories. Another example of better knowledge gained. Read, move forward, and transition to maturity without insisting that established institutions change names that you don't like.

Hey kid, Don't bother to apply to colleges like William & Mary or George Washington U, Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt, Tulane, or U VA. Lots of founders & namesakes had slaves & didn't value all human colors the same. Save yourself the hurt feelings & go to a school with a very diverse faculty & student body. San Jose State, Fresno state, or SF State might not offend you. Wherever you go, you'll need to deal with perceived slights on your own - sxhools won't dig daddy showing up to speak your words for you.


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Chip

"outdated scientific ideas once held by the namee."

Just to single out one "scientific idea", would you say that the idea that "race" is a biological rather than a social construct is outdated? Seems to me that the "scientific racism" of the eugenicists is not just alive but prospering in a time of increasing nativism.

For another take on the significance of breaking the silence on David Starr Jordan's (negative) eugenics, you might check out "The Nazi History Behind 'Asperger'" in yesterday's NYT. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 4, 2018 at 9:28 am

Sure, Jerry. Race is biological but claiming superiority of any one over others is false science, you know?


108 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:00 am

So glad to see this memorial fund. Fred Yamamoto is American hero and should be honored. I still can't believe the school board caved to the 1st general Chinese Americans who discriminated against a common Japanese name.

"Some of the donors listed on the page appear to be the same people who spoke at the March 27 Palo Alto Board of Education meeting against naming a school after Fred Yamamoto..."

Are they the same group of people who argued WGPA, had issues with Gunn principal and against new Gunn principal?

Web Link

Web Link


92 people like this
Posted by PeacefulPaloAlto
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

PeacefulPaloAlto is a registered user.

When Chinese community members choose not to participate in the renaming committee, and then don’t attend any of the committee meetings, that were open to the public month after month, they can’t really cry out that the committee was not diverse enough and that the whole thing needs to be done over. The committee’s process was as transparent as could be. There were multiple postings on social media, in the newspapers, email distributions by the schools and PAUSD, information at local libraries, and yet they missed every opportunity to participate. This is hardly an unconnected group – they keep themselves extremely informed about what’s going on in the district. The fact that they cry foul when an American Japanese name is picked is very telling. Also, getting masses of people, from Taiwan and mainland China, to sign the petition against Yamamoto is badly played.


81 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:24 am

To PeacefulPaloAlto,

Yes, totally agree with you. This group of people love to sign petitions. They send the petitions worldwide in order to boost the headcounts. All petitions become global survey.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2018 at 10:29 am

If the Japanese community want to honor someone from their community by setting up a scholarship fund that sounds like a great idea.

If any community wants to honor one of their own over any other war hero by getting City Hall or any other civic amenity named in his honor is that being fair to the many other war heroes who may have been equally heroic?

Perhaps it is time for a wall of honor in city hall with plaques of many of our war heroes listed.

There is a reason we have unnamed war grave memorials in DC. It means that the grave can hold the remains of any individual and by honoring that one we are in fact honoring all. Who is to say that one who died deserves more than say one who was a POW, or one who has had to live with terrible war wounds for the rest of his life? We cannot hold one hero up higher than any other. It is terrible that war took the lives of so many and left so many with wounds, visible or invisible, that they had to live with for the rest of their lives. Honoring all those who were affected by war is a good thing, but a hierarchy of such people should not be allowed.


8 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm

> Also, getting masses of people, from Taiwan and mainland China, to sign
> the petition against Yamamoto is badly played.

Agreed. Admiral Yamamoto was involved in the navel aspects of WWII in the Pacific. There is very little evidence that he had anything to do with the horrific actions of the Japanese on the Chinese mainland. Yamamoto was not the main character in the Japanese high command:

Web Link

Those speaking against the Yamamoto name gave very little in terms of evidence as to how Adm. Yamamoto affected the lives of the Chinese while he was alive. While a goodly number of Japanese military leaders were convicted of war crimes after the war, it's not clear that Yamamoto would have suffered the same fate--given his actions as a Naval commander.

It's very hard to see how Fred Yamamoto's life in Palo Alto or his death in Europe as an infantryman necessarily justifies having a school named after him. A couple posters have pointed out that there were other Palo Altans who died in this great conflict--so why not do something in remembrance of all of those who served?

This situation also leads to the question--what happens when someone with a Chinese name, like "Mao", "Deng" or "Xi" are being considered for a similar public honor. Given that the Communists have killed more than 65M since 1949, will there be similar objections from the "Chinese community" .. or will they not see these Chinese deaths in the same light that they see those killed by the Japanese occupation of China (1931-1945)?

It is a shame that the schools were renamed in order to placate a handful of revisionists. A truly sad day for this town.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Chip

"Race is biological but claiming superiority of any one over others is false science, you know?"

Well, Chip, you get partial credit on the Jordan "scientific racism" test by agreeing with the eugenicists that race is biological. You get no credit, though, by denying Jordan's doctrine of racial superiority. From the Stanford authorized biography written by historian Edw. McNall Burns (author of the Western Civ textbook used by generations of Stanford undergrads): "In the mind of David Starr Jordan no dogma was more firmly fixed than the concept of race superiority as the condition essential to human progress."

Maybe you learned in high school biology that race is determined by one's genes--a biological given, while ethnicity was more a matter of culture. Maybe you memorized the names of the four, or was it five, races, and could rank order them, highest to lowest. That now-discredited theory lives on despite current understanding that race is socially defined, not genetically determined. Still a real phenomenon, as we are forced to take into account daily, but not a biological one.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2018 at 7:01 pm

"That now-discredited [racial ranking] theory lives on despite current understanding that race is socially defined, not genetically determined. Still a real phenomenon, as we are forced to take into account daily, but not a biological one."

Bullseye. The social component of racial ranking is primary. Scholarly efforts to define race differences scientifically derive from it as attempts to justify the personal racial superiority of the scholars.

Of course, garden variety bigots have no need for scholarly justifications; they are secure in their innate hatreds which, seemingly paradoxically, often derive from their personal insecurities. Witness the visceral animus against Barack Obama who, being the offspring of a black male and a white female, inflames the primal sexual insecurities of weak white males.


10 people like this
Posted by Very suspicious posts and activity
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2018 at 11:49 pm

Started reading about this topic a few weeks ago, and since I'm personally involved in the data analytics business, I find it very suspicious that some posts from the Yamamoto supporters get so many likes, whereas any different view gets removed.

I think the renaming project was a mistake to begin with, and once we introduce names that bring up war memories, emotions take over and nobody benefits.


8 people like this
Posted by dejiii
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

dejiii is a registered user.

Bless Fred Yamamoto, WWII vets and all that have given
their time in protection of our Country. As the oldest
son of a seriously wounded in Vietnam Vet. I could my blessing.
As to the name changes to Jordan and Terman Jr High Schools.
As a resident of Palo Alto since 1970. Simply ridiculous, and
complete waste of money and time. As stated before...
Daniel Boone, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and 1000s of
other huge American patriots and leaders of USA. Were murders
of native Indians, Slave owners, and bigots in their own ways.
The list is endless.... But Palo Alto found the time and money
to waste...
III


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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