Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0054

<Begin Segment 54>

AI: Well, I, I know, also, that at the time that so many people were starting to work on behalf of redress and were working to try and make it a reality, that at the same time some people had severe doubts whether it was even really possible to get some kind of fair decision from the government. I'm wondering what -- even though you were very active, yourself, on behalf of redress at that time of giving the testimony -- what did you think the chances were that the government would decide on behalf of redress?

KK: Well, I think that we all -- those of us who work for causes -- hoped for a positive outcome. But I never really faced reality in one way or the other. I heard the arguments of my own groups that were not doubting whether it would happen or not, but whether this should have happened at all. Some people were indignant that we are exposing ourselves again. Others were saying that we wouldn't take the money because we... not that we don't feel we're deserving, but why should the government have to pay for something happened so many... and, after all, they felt super patriotic and this, that it was another group asking for money. And that was some of the attitudes, so... but I found that most people who were given the redress applied for it and received it.

And, as you know, it continued for many years following that. The tag-in groups, they -- and I must give credit to the government for trying to find those who were deser-, who had, who were candidates for the redress, to seek them out. And I think they ran over their budget in the process.

AI: Well, as we know, there were many years in between the time when Congress actually approved the initial redress bill, and then that was signed, but then an appropriation.

KK: Well, the regret that our parents, so many of them had passed on. And it was the parents who were most affected by the evacuation, and who were unable, who, upon return, were unable to make a decent living. And certainly we felt that that was unfortunate.

GN: You wrote a letter to President Reagan --

KK: Oh, yes. But --

GN: -- regarding that. Right?

KK: I don't think it affected him one way or the other. [Laughs] I had a nice response from his secretary, but I doubt if the President saw it. But they, he, it passed, and he's, he was there to sign the redress bill in the first place, and... but it was really the Congress that needed to, to appropriate the funds.

AI: Your letter was in the process before it was passed. And what did you say to President Reagan? What compelled you to even write that letter?

KK: Well, you know, it's an activist thing to do. And I thought a handwritten letter just giving my thoughts on the whole evacuation experience and why -- and I tried to make it as personal possible -- how one family was affected by it. And perhaps he could, he would understand it in terms, not of the legality or the illegality or the patriotic or the lack of, of whatever, our loyalty or... it was really an expression of a human experience of one family that, perhaps, would reach him emotionally, maybe? Intellectually, maybe not. But emotionally. And it really is, comes down to the number of people talking about themselves, often sways the decision makers. And that was just my response.

AI: Well, then eventually, as we know, the appropriation was made, and people did start getting, in the mail, their redress with the letter and the check. And I'm wondering what was your reaction when you received yours?

KK: Nice. [Laughs] And, of course, then you say, now what shall I do with the money? And my immediate reaction was, what shall I do with it? But ended up by having a portion of that given to our local organizations that I believed in and, a few thousand dollars here and there, what was a surprise to a lot of them. And, and, and to this day they think I am a philanthropist. They keep asking for money. [Laughs] But it was fun to do that. And, of course, my husband suggested that we put it in a special fund. And I said, "Well you've gotten yours, why should I give you mine?" [Laughs] But I really don't know what happened to the balance. I guess it's there somewhere, yet. I hope.

AI: Did reading the apology, the letter of apology, what did that mean to you when you saw that in writing?

KK: Well, it wasn't, it wasn't really a handwritten note. It was a produced note. [Laughs] And what else? How can you get a check for ($20,000) without something? But it was an acknowledgement, and I'm sure that even though the signature was copied -- copies of it -- it, I still have it, so I didn't throw it away.

GN: It doesn't have your name on it, does it?

KK: No, it doesn't. It didn't even say, "Dear Friend." [Laughs] Or "Dear Former Evacuee," or anything like that. But, but I'm sure that amount was used in different ways by individuals, and that it did probably more good than not. And I hope that residue will be a memory in people's minds of why we received, the check was sent out. And perhaps even the government, who was responsible for our internment, was also responsible for having a restitution of some sort, and they would think again before precipitating some other action, similar action.

<End Segment 54> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.