Japanese American Internee Awarded Honorary Degree

FRESNO, Calif. In a prepared address at Selma City Hall, Welty said of Otomo; "His Fresno State education in Agronomy was cut short by an executive order that sent thousands of Japanese Americans on the West Coast into isolated internment camps."

Otomo's father died in the camp. Despite the ordeal, John joined the Army.

"Well, all of us Japanese-Americans were really discriminated and we had to show our faith in America. That's one of the reasons I joined." Otomo said.

After serving in Japan and the Philippines, John returned home to Selma. He married, raised a family, and ran a business. He never had time to go back to school. But now, because of his sacrifice and service, the university presented him with an honorary degree.

"We hereby confer the honorary degree of bachelor of humane letters upon John Hiroshi Otomo and admit you to all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, congratulations." Welty said.

Otomo was moved and humbled by the tribute. "Dr. Welty I humbly accept the honorary degree. And thanks all the dignitaries for being here. This is really something. You know they say old men don't cry but I had some tears. Now thank everybody for being here. And through all this adversity, I think the USA is the best country in the world. God bless you and thank you." He said.

John Otomo's degree is the first to be awarded under a new program, aimed at recognizing all Japanese Americans who had to give up their educations because of the internment. The University believes a total of 250 Japanese Americans were taken out of the school and sent to camps in 1942.

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