The Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF) was founded in 1998 to meet a growing need to train and mentor emerging leaders in the API community. In 2000, ACLF organized its inaugural Community Leadership Program (CLP). Tatsuo Nakata was a graduate of this first CLP class, served ACLF as a past board member to assist in further development of the organization and programs, and continued to support ACLF by informally mentoring class participants.
Tatsuo’s sudden passing has left many people in the community still grieving. As we grieve, we also want to reflect on the leadership lessons that Tatsuo shared. He has left this community a legacy that we hope will inspire us all to develop our own leadership, serve our community, and work for social justice.
“Tatsuo moved here from the Midwest and made an early decision to get involved and take a leadership role on issues important to him. He jumped right in, became a member of the first ACLF class, joined JACL [Japanese American Citizens League], and developed a network that has touched hundreds of folks, both within and external to the API community. I also believe that as a ‘hapa’ leader, Tatsuo reflected and became a symbol of our diverse community and the need to be inclusive.”
~Kip Tokuda, ACLF founder
“I once heard leadership described as the ability to inspire people to greater things than they perceive within themselves. In this sense, Tatsuo was a natural. His confidence, savvy and devotion to social justice provided the inspiration not only to immerse myself in our API community, but to also find those qualities in myself. Once a student struggling to find my path when I met Tatsuo, I now have the humble honor of following in his footsteps as president of the Seattle JACL. Clearly, he was a true leader and leaves a legacy of continued inspiration with those he touched.”
~Doug Honma, 2001 CLP graduate, former ACLF board member & staff
“Though many people knew Tatsuo as a rising community leader, he was my friend who was always kind, funny, and people always felt comfortable around him. I miss him very much.”
~Chris Hong, 2000 CLP graduate
“Tatsuo was a member of ACLF’s first community leaders program. It was hard to believe that he was finishing up his undergraduate degree at Seattle University as he looked like he was just barely ready to graduate from high school. But behind that young face was an extremely thoughtful and sensitive young man who thought deeply about how he could contribute to making the world a more tolerant and compassionate place. He taught me that age does not equate with the depth or breadth of one’s contributions – what counts is living each day with meaning and spirit during the time we are given.”
~Jill Nishi, ACLF founding board member
“When I think of Tatsuo and what I have learned from him is that he was such a passionate, principled, wise, committed, humble, caring and FUN person at such a young age. His core values were always there and he did not waver – rather, he acted on them. When he acted, he did not need to rant or rave … he listened, brought people together, and created wonderful relationships and outcomes all in support of fairness and justice. He was involved in many things and was extremely successful, but he always led with ‘we,’ not ‘I’ when describing the work. For all that he has done … in a few short years … he lived many lifetimes. I will miss my ‘brother’ deeply, but am grateful to have been a part of his life.”
~Jeffrey Hattori, ACLF founding board member
“Tatsuo always prioritized giving back to the community, because of his high respect for those who came before him, and provided opportunities for the next generation. He felt a personal responsibility in continuing the struggle for civil rights and social justice. Tatsuo was an incredible community leader. From his political activism, civic engagement, community fund-raising and constant volunteering, we are extremely fortunate to have benefited from Tatsuo’s contributions. We can continue the example of his leadership by taking action, working to increase API representation, and speaking out so API voices can be heard.”
~Nori Catabay, 2006 ACLF board president
ACLF is grateful for the support and assistance Tatsuo has provided to our organization. Our community is in a better place because of his dedicated community organizing and vision for our future. Tatsuo certainly can never be replaced, but we can do our best to do our part as he did for the community.
Donations to the Tatsuo Nakata Memorial Fund can be made at any Washington Mutual branch, account number 313-108130-3.
The Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF) trains and mentors skilled and caring API community leaders. We are now accepting applications for our 2007 Community Leaders Program [more information at (206) 625-3850]–. We are partnering with the International Examiner to spotlight existing and emerging leaders in the API community. Through these interviews, we hope to identify opportunities for collaboration on issues affecting our community and to strengthen our united voice.