An Apology Can Provide Renewal - A lesson from the Japanese Internment

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in camps in the interior of the country between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who had lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1991, President George Bush wrote a letter of Apology. The letter of apology was important for the United States. Because as a country that believes in freedom, justice and equality, the internment was against the founding principles of the nation. And rightly so, he mentioned in his letter, that with this apology he had "renewed (our) traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice."

The following is the complete text of this letter:

Transcript of the Letter to Japanese


A monetary sum and words alone cannot restore lost years or erase painful memories; neither can they fully convey our Nation’s resolve to rectify injustice and to uphold the rights of individuals. We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World War II.

In enacting a law calling for restitution and offering a sincere apology, your fellow Americans have, in a very real sense, renewed their traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. You and your family have our best wishes for the future.

George Bush

George H. W. Bush, LETTER FROM PRESIDENT BUSH TO INTERNEES (1991). Courtesy of California State University—Sacramento, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives.