upper waypoint

Zachary Matsumoto: Family History

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

To explore the person he is today, Zachary Matsumoto explored his family history. Here’s what he learned.

My A.P. Government teacher gave us an unusual assignment: draw a tree and list your political beliefs, with your core values as the roots. My political beliefs I could list, but my core values? What truly made me who I am today?

My mind wandered back to dinnertime at age 10, when my parents first told me stories about my ancestors. One always stood out.

It began, “When your great-grandfather was about your age …”
Immediately, I was transported back 100 years to the Angel Island detention center, where an immigration official harshly interrogated my 12-year-old great-grandfather. He was imprisoned for three months, part of the enforcement of the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act.

But then I think of how my great-grandfather persevered, building a life for himself. I think of my Japanese American great-grandparents and grandparents, returning home after being imprisoned in internment camps during WWII. It dawned on me that my values are shaped by my family’s persistence. And what did they all have in common? Hope.


That’s how I came to my first core value of hope.

Looking again at the assignment, I asked myself: how did my family make hope a reality? And what values did they exemplify?

One immediately came to mind: service. In 1968, Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka, my great aunt and uncle, founded the Asian American Political Alliance at UC Berkeley and coined the term “Asian American.” They were social justice activists who promoted equity for people of color.

Some people say our family’s history gives us inspiration; gives us role models; gives us deeper empathy for people experiencing hardship today. All of this is true. But for me, it’s more. My ancestors have given me the gift of core values that have shaped who I am and who I intend to be. I hope I’ll make them proud.

With a Perspective, I’m Zachary Matsumoto.

Zachary Matsumoto is from Novato.

lower waypoint
next waypoint