FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 1, 2023


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JANM Relaunches the Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) relaunched the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy as the Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (Democracy Center).

A program of JANM, the revitalized Democracy Center builds on the original vision of Senator Daniel K. Inouye. A place for education and participation, the Democracy Center examines issues around race, identity, and social justice; explores the evolving idea of what democracy is and what it means to be an American; and urges the public and leaders to bring diverse communities together, advocate for positive change, and promote democracy.

After a welcome performance by LA Taiko Collective, William T Fujioka, chair of the JANM Board of Trustees, and James E. Herr, the director of the Democracy Center, unveiled the sign at the main entrance adding the late Senator’s name. They then joined Jennifer Sabas of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, JANM Trustee George Takei, Los Angeles City Controller Kenneth Mejia, and Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Kenko Sone, to cut the ribbon and welcome guests into the Democracy Center for remarks.

Highlights of the program hosted by David Ono, coanchor at ABC-7 and a member of JANM’s Board of Governors, included remarks from Consul General  Sone, a video welcome from JANM President and CEO Ann Burroughs, remarks from Jennifer Sabas about Senator Inouye’s legacy, and a video message from United States Senator Alex Padilla.

“It takes organizations like this to teach us that in America, we’re made stronger because of our differences and diversity, and continue to instill in us the most basic lesson of our high school civics classes: that our democracy works best when as many people as possible are empowered to participate,” said Senator Padilla. 

Los Angeles City Controller Kenneth Mejia presented Herr with a certificate of congratulations on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, noting “It is important to have spaces like the Democracy Center that bring Senator Inouye’s vision to life, a place for education and participation, a place that brings communities together to be able to participate in difficult conversations on race, identity, and social justice, all of which are very important in the preservation and perception of democracy.”

Herr, who was appointed as the Democracy Center’s first director in November 2022, gave the keynote address. “I jumped at the opportunity to work here at the Democracy Center,” he said. “In a world where we see attacks on American democracy everyday we need institutions to stand up and speak out. We need to stem the tide of apathy and antipathy. Our role here is to make sure that no weird little kid—or anyone, anywhere—should ever be made to feel that they are not a part of this democracy—in fact its very future relies on their participation.”
Fujioka thanked the speakers and urged the audience to support the revitalized Democracy Center.

Two of the flagship programs of the revitalized Democracy Center will be the Distinguished Lecture Series honoring the late Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and the late Irene Hirano Inouye, coming in 2024.

Other major initiatives of the Democracy Center include:

  • The Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship which will promote democracy, leadership, diversity, and community empowerment. The Fellowship will facilitate dialogue and cooperation between early to midcareer leaders from Japan drawn from government, business, media, the arts, and NGO sectors and their American counterparts. The Fellowship program will be housed at the Democracy Center.
  • The Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship, awarded annually to two emerging writers of color who have demonstrated commitment to writing about the art of communities of color and whose unique perspectives or points of view contribute to arts writing.
  • Empathy & Democracy, a live four-part podcast series and pop-up art program presented by the Democracy Center in collaboration with the Gratitude Blooming Podcast. Part 3 will be on February 10, 2024 and Part 4 will be on May 4, 2024.
  • Programs with community partners including AAPI Equity Alliance, Artistas de Colores Unido, California Black Freedom Fund, Chinese American Museum, The Huey P. Newton Foundation, LA Live, and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Stop AAPI Hate, and others.
  • A forthcoming Democracy Book Store in the Democracy Center’s lobby. The book store will feature topical books about democracy by some of today’s important authors—many of whom will be featured through the Democracy Center’s partnership with Live Talks LA—and a Banned Books section featuring works banned because of their content or message.

In conjunction with the relaunch, the Democracy Center brings The Bias Inside Us, a nationally touring exhibition about implicit bias, to JANM from November 18, 2023–January 28, 2024. The exhibition examines the social science and psychology of implicit bias, its impact, and what people can do about it. Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and hosted by the Democracy Center, the exhibition features compelling images, hands-on interactives, and powerful testimonials and videos that offer an opportunity to learn how to challenge bias in the world through awareness of one’s own bias.

The Democracy Center is supported by the Boeing Company, the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, the Tateuchi Foundation, Critical Minded, John Kobara and Sarah Kobara, Sharon Mizota, Susan Morita and Alan Matsumoto, and the Toshizo Watanabe Foundation. Media sponsor is LAist.

Major support for The Bias Inside Us is provided by the Otto Bremer Trust. Additional support provided by Acton Family Giving, Anonymous donors, The Beverly Foundation, Steve and Sheri Lear, Target, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation, Thomson Reuters, Alabama Power Foundation, Allianz of America, Valerie E. and William A. Anders, Atlanta Gas Light Foundation, Julie and David Burton, the Dreier Family, Lennart Ehn and Ginger Lew, Expedia, Trevor and Melissa Fetter, the Roger S. Firestone Foundation, Brenda J. Gaines, Myra Hart and Kent Hewitt, Charlie and Nancy Hogan, Judy and Bob Huret, Dr. Christine C. Jenkins and Mr. Pierre A. France, KNOCK, inc., Sarah Lawer and Frank Guanco, Leaders Forum, Kathleen Mason, Elyse Rabinowitz and Jim Porter, Dr. Philip S. and Alice Hoolihan Randall, Gloria del C. Rodriguez, the Family of Leona Roen, and Naoma Tate.


About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a center for civil rights, ensuring that the hard-fought lessons of the World War II incarceration are not forgotten. A Smithsonian Affiliate and one of America’s Cultural Treasures, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories. JANM is a center for the arts as well as history. It provides a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 100 exhibitions onsite while traveling 40 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. JANM is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday–Sunday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and on Thursday from 12 p.m.–8 p.m. JANM is free every third Thursday of the month. On all other Thursdays, JANM is free from 5 p.m.–8 p.m. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.