Editor’s Note: Tama Tokuda wrote this article for the Northwest Asian Weekly in May 1994, shortly after Kip Tokuda’s campaign kick off. It is presented as it was published.
By Tama Tokuda
Special to NW Asian Weekly
The other night I was sitting in the corner of the auditorium at the Mt. Baker Community Club, watching the proceedings of the kick-off rally for my son’s campaign for State Representative of the 37th District.
I think in most people’s lives there are times one feels like a new light went on, revealing another facet of life. If Kip hadn’t thrown his hat into the political ring, I imagine I would have gone on for the rest of my life, blithely unaware and perfectly content without getting involved.
Now — I have a personal interest and will be aware of the political struggle that will surely ensue.
While I was in this daze of wonderment, Assunta Ng approached me and asked, “How does it feel to be the mother of a political candidate?”
First of all, at 73 years, so many times I have felt I don’t care for any more new experiences. What I desire is to be safe and secure and comfortable. However, the tides of life are relentless, especially if one has five children in their prime.
Our offspring lead us into such a different world. They have experiences and responsibilities that we in our generation didn’t dream of.
I viewed the crowd of animated faces of different racial backgrounds, women as well as the taken-for-granted men. I took into account the civil rights and the sexual revolutions that have restructured our society.
I grew up in Seattle in an era when we were “fenced” in, completely segregated. We Japanese accepted as a fact that life was so, that the only people in authority were white people, that women lived vicariously through husbands and children.
Even as many graduated from college with honors, the doors to professional jobs were closed. Was it infinite wisdom or our cultural background that made our parents still insist we go to college and excel scholastically … we complied blindly to their guidance.
What I was that night in this new breed of people was a testament to the unshakable fact that life is better.
True, the little world I grew up in was safer, warmer, more secure; but the opportunities were meted out with a selective eye. The cards were stacked against minorities. The new rules brought into play and power a blend of dynamics undreamed of in my youth. Minorities are realizing an ever-increasing part in the mainstream.
Most mothers want their children to be safe and happy. If they had their way, children would be safely harbored in their homes reading and resting. Why, I wonder, would anyone want to aspire to a position without privacy, where satisfying one party means making another one unhappy; where the ideas to bring about a better world often are compromised and compromised until the original intention is worn away.
I can’t help but dwell on the hazards of this job. But then, after the age of 16, most children ignore their mother’s advice and follow their own course of thoughts and mind. And really, when you come down to it, what do I know about politics?
Raised in an entirely different era, how realistic are my views and thoughts? Who is that slightly graying man smiling and shaking hands? He is my son, in my own eyes still a child.
Fortunately for civilization, children strike out on their own. They venture into the world and give life the best they’ve got. They test their strength and curiosity against all sorts of odds. Is that the gift of youth?
My husband has now been dead for nine years. Over those years, sometimes I have been glad he wasn’t here to face unpleasant days or events. Then other times, when the spring sun shines upon the cascading wisteria or I am blessed with a rich experience like Kip’s rally, I wish very much that he were here. We would know exactly what was going on in each other’s hearts. Our joy would have been complete.
When raising a family, one’s goal is to make the children independent. We wait almost impatiently for them to get on their feet and out into the world. Our family had a retarded son and the other four children had always been encouraged to discover their own identity and destiny, not to be shadowed or burdened by their disabled brother. Perhaps early in life, they were able to feel privileged to be “normal.” That may have given them a special impetus to make their lives count.
The thing is, after the children leave home, there isn’t that constant communication. They’re out there trying to create their own world. We hope they’re keeping out of trouble, taking their vitamins, driving carefully.
On rally night, I was dazzled by the sight of unknown faces. There were the few friends from ancient times in our family history, the ones that always come through. The majority of people were Kip’s connections. On this night Kip defined his character and his world for me.
Growth is a process that continues until the day we die. It takes many things to make a man — education, many successes, overcoming repeated rejections, lots of love, and a little luck along the way. The election is his supreme effort, yet another step into becoming the man Kip Tokuda was meant to be. (end)
Tama Tokuda starred in the NWAAT production of “The Wash.” Her daughter Wendy is a news anchor in Los Angeles, formerly at KING-TV. Daughter Valerie is with the Fremont Public Assoc. Daughter Marilyn is an actress in L.A.