BCA leaders, officials and organizations — from Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada to the FWBA — were unanimous in their praise of Terri Omori and for leadership skills, experience and for her breakthrough role in becoming the first woman president in the Buddhist religious organization’s 123 years.
The Wheel of Dharma reached out to several individuals in the BCA for comment and this is what they had to say:
BCA Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada:
"I am thrilled that Terri Omori will be our first woman president for the BCA, but more than being the first woman president, I am grateful that someone with her sincerity and leadership will be serving as our next president. I look forward to working with her."
Outgoing BCA President Kent Matsuda:
“In March 2022, the BCA will install Terri Omori from the Vista Buddhist Temple as our first woman as BCA president. Like many BCA presidents before her, she has been a former temple president. She is currently one of the primary leaders at Vista and has overseen the daily events at the temple for years. She is the wife of the ever helpful Ford Omori.
“During the time that I was BCA President, I gave Terri several difficult tasks to do. She helped to oversee several BCA committees and has been part of the leadership for organizing several of the recent National Council meetings.
“She has great organizational skills and is able to bring reason and calm to any difficult situation. During the past two years, I have been extremely impressed with her skills and her knowledge of subjects that every temple leader should know.
“Approximately 15 years ago, there was a picture on the first page of the Wheel of Dharma that showed the women who were part of the BCA National Board. Although every one of the women pictured was capable of being the BCA President, in the end, none of them received that honor. Terri will bring the strength of those women with her as she shows all of us that gender makes no difference when it comes to BCA leadership.
“I wish her well for her upcoming term as BCA President. I know that she will do an excellent job and that she will be the first of many women leading our organization.”
Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations (FBWA) President Peggy Okabayashi:
“Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations (FBWA) congratulates Terri Omori, for becoming the first female BCA President.
“The FBWA looks forward to collaborating with President Omori on programs/projects of mutual interest and benefit. Buddhist women need role models who are strong leaders that understand the need to inspire other women to achieve. Women like President Omori can be powerful agents of change. She is authentic and practical, innovative and action focused and as an empowered woman she will bring about improved outcomes and results for BCA.
“The theme for the 2022 FBWA Conference is ‘Winds of Change’ and the ascension of Terri Omori to BCA President substantiates our theme. We look forward to the ‘Winds of Change’ throughout BCA during President Omori’s term.”
Vista Buddhist Temple President Ricky Schesinger:
“Of course, we at Vista Buddhist Temple are delighted to have our own Terri Omori become the first woman president of the BCA.
“The work she has done at VBT, and her lifelong engagement in the BCA and her Jodo Shinshu practice makes Terri deeply qualified. This is a responsibility and an honor Terri has earned. If a woman can successfully run the United Kingdom, be the Chancellor of Germany, and the CEO of General Motors, there no longer should be a gender concern regarding the President of the BCA. We all look forward to her leadership. Too bad her term limit is only two years.”
Immediate Past BCA President Rick Stambul:
“The ascension of Terri Omori to lead BCA is an historic moment because she is the first woman in 123 years to be elected BCA President.
“But in a larger sense, BCA is fortunate to have Terri Omori as our incoming national President not because she is a woman, but because she is an exceptional human being. I have always found her kindness, her Namo Amida Butsu nature, her ability to deeply hear what is being said, her insistence on being all-inclusive, to be part of who she is at her core. Terri’s default is “Yes!” I have no doubt she will use that kindness, compassion and wisdom to lead Shin Buddhism forward in America.
“A key responsibility of our temple and national Presidents is to identify future leaders and encourage them to undertake the Presidency with the vision to preserve and promote our Shin Buddhist teachings for our collective future.
“This is part of an effort to ensure that fundamental Buddhist values such as the equal treatment of all our members regardless of gender and race, as opposed to political agenda, continue to flourish.
“Glass ceilings be damned! Ultimately, it does not matter whether a Shin Buddhist is a woman or a man, disabled or athletic, LGBTQ or straight, Asian or Caucasian, young or old. Instead, we embrace all sentient beings equally regardless of gender, appearance or ability because we all come from the same family: we are all one.
“We join together in welcoming Terri Omori as our next BCA President.
Namo Amida Butsu!”
BCA Secretary Darlene Bagshaw:
“I've only known Terri for a short while, but I've become a friend. I truly respect her compassion for others and her willingness and desire to help all those who need her assistance. She is so very kind and patient — it is no wonder people want to be a part of Vista!
“Her actions in daily life embody the Jodo Shinshu teachings. She cares for the BCA and all the Sangha members. Terri is an excellent listener, which will make her a great leader for the BCA.
“She's like that super bright link in ‘The Golden Chain’ — always keeping her link bright and strong, always kind and gentle, always thinking of how she can better the lives of others. We shared a Dharma School outreach program at the beginning of the pandemic where she connected students and adult members through the artistic talents and writings of the students in cards sent to adult members. She truly thinks of all ages and our interconnectedness.”
BCA Social Welfare Committee Chair Celeste Sterrett:
“Terri is a rising star in the BCA and it’s easy to see why. The article in February Wheel of Dharma spotlighting how the Vista Buddhist Temple has more than doubled its members in 15 years explains a lot.
“Leadership skills, but also, and in my mind — the most important reason — her warm and welcoming manner. I first experienced her friendliness at a National Council meeting in California. I was there by myself, not knowing a lot of people. I entered the crowded hotel restaurant.
“Terri, her husband Ford and several others were seated already having breakfast. Terri spotted me looking around and right away invited me to join their group. That gesture made me feel so welcomed and made me think — ‘Yes, indeed, I am part of this group.’ This, along with her leadership skills, will help move Shin Buddhism to a recognizable, thriving religion in the west.”
BCA Vice President Steve Terusaki:
“Terri and I have a long history together going back to our roots at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego.
“Terri’s parents, Ben and Miki Honda, were Jr. YBA advisors and second parents to a generation of Jr. YBA members in San Diego. Terri and her brother Ralph were our adopted younger siblings and it goes without saying we all have a deep appreciation for all that they have done as active members and supporters of the Buddhist Temple of San Diego and the Vista Buddhist Temple.
“Terri’s commitment to the Buddha-Dharma is, without reservation, as temple president, Dharma School superintendent at Vista and her involvement in Southern District Council, FDSTL and various BCA committees.
“It has been equally exciting to see the leadership of BCA presented to Terri as she becomes our first woman BCA President. I look forward to her leadership and her ability to make a difference for the future of BCA.”