This won’t do it justice, neither do the photos, but you certainly can see the happiness in Taky’s face.

We had contacted the school to see if Taky could graduate, but no one could have scripted what he was to receive in return. Taky was excitedly recognized everywhere he went, people said they were coming to the graduation just because of him. An old classmate apologized for not being aware that Taky had never received his diploma and apologized for not doing something sooner. He tearfully told the story of the day Taky was taken - how they cried at the 1942 graduation because he wasn’t there. It was wrenching. We had always focused on what Taky had lost and didn’t consider what his classmates went through in losing him.

The ceremony was incredible. The entire crowd erupted in cheers when Taky entered and they included him in nearly every piece. They found an old class photo of Taky when he was 15 or so and bought him a WSU sweatshirt (where he was to go to school on scholarship). The speeches of the salutatorian and valedictorian were both dedicated to what they had learned from Taky’s story – perseverance, positive attitude, forgiveness and humility. About 14 members of the Makah Nation came up and said their uncle was good friends with Taky and how much he had cherished that friendship. They had many gifts for him including an eagle feather and a hand-carved canoe paddle, then sang a traditional gift-giving song reserved for the most reverent of occasions. Taky took the microphone and tried to thank them and everyone in the community, but he was overwhelmed with emotion.

The final speaker was Greg Colfax, a member of the school board. He began, “Please don’t thank us for the diploma, Mr. Kimura; you have been done a grave injustice.” It was an incredibly moving and powerful speech that is well worth the read. We’ll post it here when we can.

The crowd went wild when his name was called for his diploma; we believe he had 3 standing ovations in all. The work the graduates and the school did, the warm welcome from the entire community, it was unbelievable. We’re still stunned. It was so much bigger than a diploma; it was a chance for Taky and the community to heal.