Dear Mr. President

July 10, 2007

The Presidential Scholars award honors the top graduating high school students in the nation, selected from top-scorers of the SAT and ACT and an application process.

While most would've just cheesed it up with the president, this young woman, along with 49 other presidential scholars. decided to use this chance to make a statement. Fifty of the 136 scholars who attended sign this letter, essentially asking the president to stop torturing detainees.

Oye is the one who handed Bush the letter. Here's her take, from the Globe article, on what she did:

' "I really felt l could not just go down and smile for the camera and not say anything," she said in an interview yesterday at her home. "There are some things that are more important than the decorum of protocol." '

I also love ("love") the "official" responses, also printed in the Globe article, which are pretty meaningless and straight up lies:

' Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, "We agree. America doesn't torture people." '

'...White House deputy press secretary, also responded later Monday. "The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," Perino said.'

Oye's grandparents on her father's side are Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII. In this Democracy Now! interview, she makes the connection between the unjust internment of Japanese Americans and today's record of human rights abuse and torture. The Democracy Now! segment is pretty cool and definitely worth watching. Amy Goodman interviews Oye and Leah Anthony Libresco, another fellow presidential scholar co-consipirator.

For some reason the Democracy Now! piece made me all teary-eyed. I guess knowing that the "top" graduating high school kids in our country have a conscience, knowledge about human and civil rights, and a sense of social justice just makes me freakin' proud (I was once a high school teacher, okay?). Also their optimism and energy is infectious. Seriously, the interview touched me. And damn, since when did 18 year-olds talk like that?

The incident has gotten press in local MA media as well as the New York Times and other national media.

It's pretty cool and inspiring to hear about a young person who took an opportunity to make a political statement, and an Asian American person at that. Model minority, what?


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



Doin us proud!
This is freakin' awesome!
word. bigs up to ms. mari oye. i hope she continues to tell it like it is.