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-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Well, let's, let's now go back to the YMCA -- the, the conference and talk about that.

GH: Well yeah, now that program, we had two courses, both Columbia registration, so that the transfer credits were good back home. So it was like I went to summer session, six credits. And one was philosophy course, Christian philosophy. The other one was, I think more pragmatic YMCA program, and strategies, leadership strategies and so on. One was more philosophical, one was more operational. Those were the two, two main courses. And they were real eye openers. And then, in addition, we had, we had programs where Norman Thomas and other people would be discussing with -- big name people -- discussing lend-lease bill. Churchill and Roosevelt working out deals where we get -- we were sending everything except our boys. Roosevelt couldn't get Congress to declare war. And so what he succeeded eventually was to get -- well in fact he didn't really succeed in that -- he got, he was harassing the Japanese ships, sending scrap iron to Japan and so on.

TI: But going back to the conference and the seminars. It sounded like a very intellectually stimulating period for you.

GH: Yeah, yeah. Right and we're entering a place -- we're entering really important political questions, not just isolated egghead discussions, it's real life discussions, and where do we stand ourselves. And then back in the background of all this was the proposal to have the first peace -- so called peace time -- 'cause we weren't at war yet 1940 -- first peace time conscription, drafting of people from age twenty one. And we were generally anti-conscription. And then we were also anti-conscription in terms of the purpose for which conscription was being passed, increasingly. So we were becoming pa -- more pacifistic as the method of enhancing our country's citizenship and so on, and international responsibilities rather than just war mongering. Aft -- our view was that after the war, and after huge deaths and destruction, we're going to have to start negotiating...

TI: Right.

GH: Peace time activities.

TI: As I listen to you, it sounds like this, this, this period there were some fundamental changes in how you looked at things.

GH: Oh yeah. I'm growing up... well, to me...

TI: That came from this, or evolving or --

GH: I'm growing up from a very passive -- what's the rule that I have to live by -- from that to what are some of the changes I want to see in the kinds of rules that are being made available to us, getting more involved in it. And that's the kind of debate I was attending. So, not only was this a important confer -- conference opportunity, training opportunity, we were in New York at the beginning of this very important period. And this old country bumpkin, that was finding it very difficult getting used to University of Washington, was finding this big city and potentiality of a world war that we're going to be entering, look like; and arguing these things with the best minds, arguing from various positions. You listen to, you know, Jim Lehrer in the news, Newsweek, NewsHour, and whenever they have an issue they make an effort to bring opposition views, experiences, to bring implications of what's involved in that news. Well, we were getting that sorta thing initially with prominent individuals, political people you're reading about in the West Coast, but here they are and they're facing the best minds in the platform there. We're, we're just really like going to graduate school in that sense.

TI: So you were hearing it from both sides, you were hearing it from not only the pacifist standpoint, but the side that was...

GH: Oh, yes. Yeah.

TI: Saying we need to enter Europe and fight and from the, again, from the best...

GH: The pacifist part was coming in when we got into discussion on conscription, pro or con conscription. And that passed. And we're having to then face in October when we're gonna be issued these US citizen forms that we had to fill in, what our positions would be. So that, that had an implication where we -- it wasn't just an academic discussion. We had to find out for ourselves where we stood and where we -- what are we going to live -- live for, or die for. That question was very much a possible, real thing. And so it was a real eye-opener experience for me, international relations, national relations, citizenship responsibility, all kinds of things that if it weren't for this summer experience -- I was just working -- I wouldn't, I would have missed all of that part of the growing part. So that's all in the picture as to how come I took this position. Well, I was given the opportunity to evaluate and weigh things. And whether right or wrong, I was ab -- I was coming to certain positions on some of those, and given opportunity to think independent for, in terms of what implications this had, and what I'm gonna do about it. So I came back with that background and I didn't know it at the time I was going through it that summer, but by October I had --

TI: I think we have to stop right now because we're out of tape, but that was very good, Gordon. Thank you.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.