In my public speaking class we have written and presented all types of speeches. We have done an oral interpretation, a speech of introduction, and an impromptu speech. Most recently we were given the assignment to write a special occasion speech. It could be anything from presenting an award to someone to commemorating an event. I decided to commemorate the life of my grandpa, my ojiichan, who passed away last summer. This is my what I presented in front of my class.
My grandfather was a wise, old Japanese ojiichan with a long stringy beard that he stroked while he was thinking. But you all know that. At face value, my grandfather was the typical elderly asian man. But to me, my ojiichan was the embodiment of sunrise. You don’t question if the sun’s rays will peek over the mountains every morning because you know it will always be there, shining light on every part of your life. And even now, as we gather today to celebrate his amazing journey on this earth, he is still the sun. But rather, the sunset, leaving vibrant memories scattered in the skies of our minds, still lighting places that before seemed forever dark.
It seems only fitting that we lay this great man to rest in the country he fought so hard to thrive in. Instead of food and water, the American Dream ran through his veins and fueled his drive for success. Success in his education, success in his family, success in the face of hardship.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And change the world is what my Ojiichan did. At least, he changed my world. He shines brightest through my education. It’s not hard to be reminded of him in every book I read, every class I take, every hour I study. It is in faded library lamps, late night laptop glows, and fluorescent lecture bulbs that he resides. He brought to light the significant importance education is on an individual, and everyone around them. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” While a young father in Japan, my ojiichan dreamed of coming to the United States to learn. And although he spoke little English, he bravely traveled thousands of miles alone to become a master watchmaker. But he didn’t stop there. His life was in a constant state of learning, his brain a glass of knowledge that was never filled. His home was overflowing with books covering hundreds of topics that he would study each morning and each night. Even as his eyesight started to fade, he read every day, with a magnifying glass as his aid to quench his thirst for knowledge.
As he spent his time studying in a land far from his home, he realized that this was what he wanted not only for himself, but also for his family. Three long years he was separated from his wife and children. Three long years were spent working and saving every penny to bring his family to America. But oceans and time could not diminish his love for them. After three long years of sleepless nights and endless hours of work, his family finally set foot on American soil. And that was the beginning of his American Dream. His light simply shined brighter in America. Like a single flame in a pitch black room, his family and their experiences brought diversity and color to other people's seemingly blank canvases. With the drive of obtaining the American Dream, he was a workhorse, always finding things that could get him closer to obtaining his goal. What was his American Dream? To provide for and encourage his family to be the best they could be.
While working toward his dreams, he faced hardship and adversity head on, exuding confidence and assurance in times of despair. When darkness so desperately tried to overtake him, the light in his heart shined even brighter through service and love. Even in times of weakness, he was a torch, guiding those around him, helping them see their potential and reach their dreams. Ultimately, his life was spent brightening others and helping them see the light within themselves.
There’s a reason Japan is called the land of the rising sun. It’s not only because they see the first light of the day, but it is where my ojiichan was raised to shine as a beacon for others. Paul C. Brownlow said, “it is true that we only live here once, but if we do it right, once is enough.” I live today in the glowing embers of ojiichan’s flaming life. Because of him, I too try to shine in my education, and help others see their own light. I am reminded of him each sunrise and sunset, with colorful memories and the shining light that he was in my life. He will forever be remembered in my mind and in the sun, still providing light to those around him.