Chiyo Moriuchi shared the story of her family’s internment in a prison camp at an assembly on October 6, 2017. Chiyo is the daughter of Takashi and Yuriko Moriuchi, who were among 110,000 Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II.
Students and teachers were moved by her account of what happened to her family. Assembly Coordinator Judy Bartella said one of the stories that she found particularly powerful was about posters.
Chiyo said there were posters that ordered Japanese families to appear at internment camps on very little notice. “The instructions required them to appear in one week’s time bringing bedding and linens, extra clothing, toiletries, cups, plates, cutlery, and personal effects. All this, but limited to only what you could carry. One week to tie up your affairs—to store or sell or throw out all of your personal possessions, except what you could carry.”
She said these developments realized some of the worst fears of Japanese Americans at the time. She asked questions at the assembly which made students think about how they would react if they were in that situation, “What do you do with the things you have worked so hard for? Your precious possessions and memories? The keepsakes from your parents? Your piano? Your house? Your dog?”
Alexander Feldman ’18 said her speech felt pertinent to life today. He was particularly moved by the last question that Chiyo asked, “She said what would you choose to do? What would you do if it was happening to you or to your neighbors?”
Chiyo said she hoped that her message would resonate with students. “There are several messages that I hope to convey. First, the awareness of the history. Many people are not aware that the ‘internment’ even occurred, so telling the story is one basic objective. Second, I would like them to be aware of the conditions that allowed this terrible event to happen and to understand that it could happen again. And third, the only way to escape falling into a cycle of hate is for individuals to act with humanity and kindness to people that may seem foreign to them.”
Chiyo currently serves on the boards of George School, Medford Leas, and the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation. She earned a BA cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and a Master of Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She lives in Newtown with her husband. Their two children are both graduates of George School.
You can watch Chiyo’s speech in its entirety here.