At Huntington University‘s convocation held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Tsubouchi was conferred a honourary doctorate of sacred letters in recognition of his service to his community and promoting humanitarian causes.
Huntington University alumni, Ontario politicians, and community leaders were all in attendance, but Tsubouchi emphasized that this award represents something much more than just his achievements.
“It is quite an honour to have an honurary doctorate bestowed upon you,” Tsubouchi said in an interview with Nikkei Voice. “This is an honour that represents the honour to all Japanese Canadians.”
“We all had the same experience and if I look at my generation of sanseis we’ve all overcome the same difficulties of living in isolation, living with not much, and being the only visible minority in school,” he said. “But with determination and really good integrity most of us have made our way in the world.”
Born in 1951 and at the height of the Japanese Canadian diaspora in Canada, Tsubouchi faced his fair share of discrimination and alienation.
Like most Japanese Canadians, he never let the taunts and the jibes affect. Like most Japanese Canadians, he grew up in a poor family that struggled to stay afloat. Through that, he discovered the importance of strong family ties and standing up for yourself.
During his speech, he described being beaten up by bullies at school. His father told him to go back to school and punch one of them in the nose, not usually the best piece of advice, but after two weeks of being beaten up and fighting back it stopped. He stood up for himself.
Former colleagues, longtime friends, and family know about Tsubouchi’s fighting sprit, although it involves more brains than brawn. From becoming the first elected Japanese Canadian to sit in an government position to his community volunteering, it was clear that Huntington University had picked Tsubouchi as not only an exemplary civil servant, but as a role model for their students.
“David immediately came forward as one of the most worthy recipients we could find,” Dr. Kevin McCormick, president and vice-chancellor of Huntington University, said in an interview with Nikkei Voice. “It’s a testament to his contributions over many many years and certainly to his legacy.”
“David’s life is that of service to the community, so it’s great to be here to honour him in one of the many communities he’s served so nobly,” McCormick said.
Tsubouchi joins the honourable Bob Rae and the honourable Francis William Mahovlich as recipients of this award.
“Once you have an education, no one can take it away from you,” Tsubouchi said. “What we need to do, the older genertaion, we need to live up to our responsibilities because there are so many young people who want to do something with their lives, but wht I’ve discovered is that they need mentors.”
Featured image: Dr. Kevin McCormick, Dr. David Tsubouchi, Dr. Gerry Lougheed Jr., and Mary-Liz Warwick on stage Huntington University’s convocation for conferring of a Doctorate of Sacred Letters to David Tsubouchi held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. Photo by: Matthew O’Mara