Happy Father’s Day Weekend! Fathers play such a critical role in our lives we sometimes forget how they impact them. Today I introduce you to a father that chose to become a leader in his community and his profession. I think his life lessons can help all of us become stronger serving leaders in our communities.
The story starts in an unusual place, a Japanese Internment camp known as Manzanar in California during World War II. Tsutomu Arai was incarcerated there during the Second World War along with many other American citizens of Japanese descent. He didn’t speak of it nor did many other internees, but it was a challenging time for his family, their community, and our nation.
It’s how he chose to deal with it that I would like to share with you today. It’s a story of a man who became a father who wanted to provide his family with something more.
I first learned of this story two years ago from his daughter Thea Arai. I met Thea at my local library after her first trip to volunteer at Manzanar. It has taken me almost two years to understand and share their story. I wanted to treat it with the respect it deserved while still providing you with several interesting lessons to consider as serving leader fathers.
So what can we learn from this man’s life? How would you handle being incarcerated for your family’s national heritage without a single trial or due process? Thousands of families were impacted forever by this decision. As a serving leader, I’m reminded that we must remain committed to protecting others rights even when it’s challenging. Now, let me get off this soap box and I’ll share what I learned from Tsutomu Arai.
The first lesson I learned from Tsutomu Arai was no matter how challenging the situation is we must retain our own positive view of the world. This doesn’t mean that things always become easier in the short term, but given time, patience, and persistence, things will work out for us. It also means that we must be willing to take charge of our future. Many men and women around Tsutomu struggled and, at times, gave into the circumstances. He never did and he passed this gift on to future generations.
The second lesson I learned from Tsutomu Arai is more paradoxical, you must hold on to your past while developing plans for a different future. Thea shared reminiscences of an almost Zen quality of persistence that helped her father deal with many of the challenges he faced. Many individuals in the camp held on to their traditions while not choosing to take action on their own behalf. The quality of both action and inaction brought other forces to bear in Tsutomu’s life and, ultimately, his destiny. He was prepared to grow when the opportunity presented itself.
The third lesson I learned from Tsutomu Arai is you must be willing put your life in another’s hands to succeed. You must learn to trust others. According to family stories, but unconfirmed, an opportunity created by The Religious Society of Friends (The Quakers) was arranged to help him get into a college in the Midwest. It would change his life forever. He began attending college and learning a profession that would change the direction of his life forever. He understood and shared that others committed to doing the right thing can help change your life forever.
The fourth Lesson I learned from Tsutomu Arai was how to handle people who don’t understand you or your culture. While first registering at college, the girl working at the registrar’s office could not understand his name. For whatever reasons, she chose to give him a name she could understand, Glenn. This simple change altered his life forever. When you look to find his work online you can find most of it listed under Glenn Arai.
This may seem like a simple matter, but imagine if you had to give up your name simply because an administrative person could not understand your name. For most people I know, it would be very hard not to get angry and bitter. Your name is very personal thing. Tsutomu didn’t let these things stop him from reaching his larger goals. He remained flexible to reach his education goals.
The fifth lesson I learned from Glenn Arai was that a leader must not only look at the big picture but also be willing to get involved in the smaller details if they hope to create something extraordinary. How do you create your own authentic style? Glenn mastered architecture because he was willing to motivate and inspire the people who worked on his projects to create extraordinary experiences for their clients. His designs are incredible from amazingly ornate details to the overall feeling of light, scale, and space in the house. He also leveraged exterior relationships with his unique designs, reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright.
His architectural designs remind me of the many life lessons I’m told he instilled in his children. He took what he was given and turned it into something extraordinary. He saw opportunities where other saw only obstacles.
The final lesson I learned from Glenn Arai was not to take life too seriously. He had an incredible sense of humor. This helped him deal with many of the daunting challenges he faced in life. Humor was the glue that held his family together in challenging times. It was something that he passed on to future generations of his family.
Tsutomu taught his children the power of both honoring the past while creating an unlimited future. Glenn Arai taught his children that anything is possible if they worked hard and believed in their dreams. Not a bad lesson to embrace this Father’s Day weekend.
Want to learn more about Glenn Arai’s architecture? You can see photos here .
Happy Father’s Day.
Thanks to Thea Arai for sharing both her father’s story and the photograph we used today.