A sense of heritage unites, and family inspires many people to succeed and flourish. With these strong connections, people can do fascinating and valuable things. Terie Miyamoto is one such person whose heritage prompted an amazing life story.
Miyamoto is an educator and a promoter for social justice.
“Social justice is embedded in every aspect of our lives and is broader than what most people think. It generates from the values of the role models who came before us and what they’ve instilled in us,” she imparted.
Some of Miyamoto’s passion and drive for social justice comes from her family history and the passion of her ancestors. Miyamoto’s grandparents were social justice advocates as well.
As Miyamoto would describe it: “I have been able to do what I did because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Miyamoto’s Grandparents Tomizo Miyamoto and his wife Hatsuye were first-generation Japanese immigrants who became successful business owners in Wyoming and Colorado. They collaborated with a black business person and together owned the only bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming that allowed people of color to frequent because of segregation in Wyoming. Famed entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. was stationed at the local Air Force Base at the time, and was a frequent customer.
“My inspiration came from my father and grandparents. The values they instilled in me were courage, compassion, hard work and community. Whenever there was an issue in the Japanese community people went to my grandparents for guidance and assistance,” said Miyamoto.
Miyamoto’s father, Ted Miyamoto, fought for the United States in World War II – in the famous 442nd segregated Japanese-American Army unit. He fought in France and Italy, while family members were incarcerated in United States internment camps, solely because of their Japanese ancestry. For his outstanding service, Ted was awarded the Bronze Star (typically awarded for or either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone) and the Congressional Gold Medal – one of the United States’ two highest civilian honors. The Congressional Gold Medal is bestowed by the United States Congress to those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”
In junior high, I got my first taste of racism and of the war experience that my dad had. He never spoke of his military service,” remembered Miyamoto. “In class, my teacher insinuated that my personal heritage was to blame for Pearl Harbor. I was humiliated. My father set up a meeting with school leaders and, with me in attendance, he told of his contribution for the U.S. He stated with emotion and passion that this inappropriate comment and view was racist and uncalled for by an educator. He stood up for me without giving it a second thought.”
One of the best ways to advocate for others and effectively promote social justice is to do it in a way that incorporates your circle of influence.
Miyamoto worked as the Human Resources Director for well-known companies like US WEST, Qwest and R.H. Donnelley in Wyoming and Colorado. She was the first human resources recruiter for Wyoming during the time of the Consent Decree and Affirmative Action. Her goal was to place men and women in nontraditional jobs in the phone company. She hired the first woman telephone lineman and placed men in clerical and customer representative positions. She was also responsible for US West’s Diversity Training for managers in a fourteen-state region. She also was President of US West’s Pacific American Network Resource Group that promoted inclusion and upward mobility for Asian Americans in the company. As the first woman promoted to Director of Labor Relations for that company, she served as the lead labor negotiator for the Dex Yellow Pages.
Miyamoto’s passion for social justice and making the world a fair place for all can be traced back to her family roots and how she grew up. Miyamoto was born in Wyoming, U.S. and grew up there. She attended the University of Wyoming from 1968-1972 and earned her degree in English and Secondary Education.
Terie Miyamoto has taken the lessons she learned from her parents and grandparents and instilled them into everything she has done. With an impressive corporate career and an impact within her circle of influence, Miyamoto hopes to inspire and mentor others as her ancestors did during their lifetimes.