Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Bannai Interview II
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 29, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-02-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: Now, during this time in the 1970s as you know, there were, there was more and more activity on the part of Japanese Americans to get some kind of redress for the internment...

PB: Right.

AI: ...experience. And as I understand when the redress idea was first discussed, it was controversial, and that many Japanese Americans were not sure it was a good idea. In fact, I understand some Nisei were even against pushing for some kind of legislation on this. What was your opinion at the time?

PB: Well, as I, I heard about it, too. Since I was a victim of that and my family, I think I mentioned that when we decided to move, we sold our furniture, my car was at a loss, one-twentieth of what the value was. We were the recipients of that kind of treatment and loss. Now, there were people that lost a lot more, the big farmers, the big nurserymen, those people that I know very well, their loss was in millions of dollars. So I sympathized and I felt that by law, we ought to do something. And as I say, when I was in the California legislature, these bills were being discussed and taken up in Congress. But I couldn't actively get involved in it. And when the bill was passed and it was going through, I knew that somewhere down the way that that would pass, which it did. And as you know, it passed and they decided that in 1980 that the commission would be set up. And that is another story. But it worked out that I was out of the legislature in 1980. And I remember that I was back in California in my hometown, and I became active with the chamber of commerce because they asked me to. So I was invited to Sacramento to speak at a chamber of commerce luncheon. And I remember vaguely -- I forgot what I was talking about at that luncheon at the hotel -- but there was a call, and a lady came out from the kitchen and said, "Mr. Bannai, there's a call for you from Washington, D.C." And I said, "Washington, D.C.? How do they know I'm here?" So, anyway I went in the kitchen and took the call. As I say, it was right at the beginning of 1980, and it was Jane Burns. [Ed. note: narrator is referring to Joan Bernstein] And she was, as you know the, the kind of the director and the one that was running the Commission on Wartime Relocation.

AI: Oh, Bernstein? Bernstein?

PB: Yeah. So she was the one on the phone saying, "Mr. Bannai, we're interested in getting someone to be the administrator of the Commission on Wartime Relocation. Would you be interested?" And I said, "Well, I don't know. I'm very familiar what's going on." She says, "We'd sure like to talk to you. Would you be willing to come to Washington, D.C., and talk to me?" So that was on Thursday. And I said, "Well, I'm here in Sacramento. I guess I can get a plane and go to D.C." So on Friday I went to Washington, D.C. The reason why I accepted the position was this. I met the people that she had hired already, because her basic staff was made up of people who were already working for the federal government, and they had a little office that was next to the White House. And she asked me to meet them and talk to them, before I took the job.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.