Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview II
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 25, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-02-0012

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TI: Gordon, I'm going to switch gears here a little bit because I want to get into your choice of religion. Because as a student, right about the time you came back from the, the Leadership Conference. As a student, you visited several churches with, with Howard Scott, and ultimately you decided to go with The Society of Friends. And --

GH: I could have postponed the decision.

TI: Right. I wanted you...

GH: Not at all...

TI: For you to talk about that...

GH: To any of them.

TI: Why you decided to join at that point in time.

GH: Well, we, we -- in order to give us strength, and insight, and encouragement, we invited people who had pacifistic orientation, and, and so we had a number of Quakers, and some Unitarians, and some who didn't belong to any religious group, but had come to this through their own experiences. And, and we, we gained from each person's sharing with us. And -- but we noticed ourselves, Howard and I, we would visit many of the groups that came to share with us. We visit their groups. And, we found ourselves eventually going more frequently to the Friends. And then eventually primarily going to the Friends group.


AI: What was it about the Friends that kept drawing you back over and over?

GH: Well, without pressuring us in any way, or recruiting us, they would be answering our questions when we raised them. They would be responding to action needs that we had. It was that sorta thing. They seemed sincere. They seemed to practice what they preached. And, and at one point they said, "You know, you people, you two been -- we welcome you, and we, we, we appreciate your regularity, we respect your, what your actions are. We want to ask you some questions. Have you ever thought of joining us?" And we said, "Not precisely. We feel comfortable, that's why you're seeing us so frequently." They said, they, they asked us what it was, was it because of conscientious objection that you're coming to us? And we said, "Well, at first that was what we came -- with the question in mind because that's what our position is." But we, we have learned that there are, there are certain questions that come prior to that before you become a conscientious objector. What is it that you believe that leads you to this place? And what do you -- why, why, why are you a conscientious objector? I mean that basic question comes before. It's not that, because you're a conscientious objector you're going to look for something that fits that. That's a method, that's a device. How come that? And we have certain philosophical beliefs fundamental to that. And we find that the Quaker way goes the longest that we know, and we're comfortable with that way. And that's what leads us to this. They said, "Well, that's what we wanted to hear. We didn't want you to come because you are a conscientious objector. We wanted to know if you had something positive that you stood for that made you say 'no'. And if that's your position then as far as we're concerned, we're no better than you are. You're one of us." And so we became a member after about a year of attending. And it's like we found our home. I found myself comfortable there because of what I'd been exposed to at home. I told my folks that: "You never heard of Quakers 'til I became one, but your beliefs, and your way overlap so strongly to the Quaker way that I found it very easy to adapt, and that's one reason I've adapted." So, that's why I became one. My brothers have generally been very favorable, but they haven't been attending the meetings or anything, and they haven't taken any action on membership. But that's, they -- to some extent I'm responsible. I'm a role model to my younger brothers, more than they realized, more than I realized. I'm doing my thing and they're looking at me as, this is the way to do it to some extent. But they know it's their decision. So they went all through -- each one of them went through a position, a conscientious objector position. And I didn't influence them. One of 'em asked me some questions and I said well, I'll answer your certain questions, but I'd like you to go and talk to so, so and so -- this was while we were in Spokane -- talk to them and you could ask them any question you want. I don't want to influence you unduly. I'm doing something and I have no hesitation for it. If you want to follow the same thing, welcome, but I'd rather you consult somebody else to decide whether that's, that's what you oughta be doing. And so far as conscientious objection, they all came to the same -- and they took the same position. My next brother was attending Guilford College at North Carolina. He was one of those that responded to some of the Quaker colleges that opened their doors. He was one of half a dozen or so that went to Guilford. And he happened to be a good athlete so he made all-conference basketball team too. And he, he was quarterback on the football team.

TI: That's, that's interesting.

GH: But he, he said, he was, he had to play against these army preflight schools and so on where they had All-Americans on the teams --

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.