Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Angus Macbeth Interview
Narrator: Angus Macbeth
Interviewers: Tetsuden Kashima (primary), Becky Fukuda (secondary)
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mangus-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

BF: I was going to ask you, when you realized that Barney Frank was going to really take this seriously and take this on, was that a moment for you personally, that you realized whoa, this could really happen?

AM: Yeah. And I had slowly begun to think that what was going to happen was that Congress would only act when the number of people still surviving who would be eligible under the recommendations was reasonably small. Because part of it obviously is that you take $20,000 and you multiply it by whatever you think the number of survivors is, and when we started it was over a billion, and on the other hand it is clearly an aging population and as each year goes by, the number become smaller. And it's a somewhat cynical view of the Congress, but there was a side of me that thought, yeah, it's altogether likely at that some point, of course, everyone will stand up and say what a terrific thing this was. And, of course, it should have been done ten years ago, but, you know, press of other business or whatever, but now we're going to do it and everybody thinks it's just terrific and, of course, it only now costs a hundred million dollars or whatever. But when Frank took it up, I thought, "This really changes it." And you're not sure what the end result of the vote will be, but for the first time, there really will be a vote. He has sufficient seniority in the system and he's certainly going to do it.

BF: How did you feel when that, when you kind of had that, that realization?

AM: It's exhilarating. Finally, it was (...) five years after the recommendations. Well, along about the fourth year, you begin to think well, maybe it never will happen. Or maybe it'll only happen when there's not many people left who were in the camps.

TK: Weren't there other people that you considered to be key to have made this a successful venture, besides Frank?

AM: Oh yes. It's just that, and I've singled Frank out because you have to have someone in that particular position and that was something that just didn't happen for a long time. And he didn't have a Japanese American constituency and I don't think he really had a prior record here. So it was a little bit fortuitous or seemed fortuitous and lucky that he took it up. There's no question that Japanese American congressmen, senators and members of the House made very substantial efforts here and that there were other people in the House and Senate who were clearly friendly and who spoke up. It's simply that the way those institutions are organized, you really need to have the subcommittee chairman or committee chairman who wants to move your legislation.

This is telling a story about something else entirely, but it just illustrates it. My brother-in-law is a judge in the Eastern District of New York, and at the time when his appointment was going through, he spent time every so often in Senator D'Amato's office, D'Amato obviously being a New York senator who's one of the people sponsoring the nomination. And he described to us one evening, because it happened in D'Amato's office, the wine importers, I think it (was), had a hearing on some bill of importance to them that D'Amato had helped with a little bit and they were coming back to tell the Senator how terrific the hearing had been, and how much they thanked him and they were just feeling wonderful and going back to New York and now everything is going to get fixed. And the senator looked at them and said, "When did they say they were going to get the report out?" And the fellow said, "Well, we didn't ask about the report." He said, "You didn't ask about the report? You know, these people aren't going to do anything for you if they don't give you a report. Now look. You got to understand how it works here. You go right back there and you ask them, and you tell them I told you to ask them, when they're gonna get the goddamn report out. Because no report, no action."

And, that's what he's conveying is exactly what goes on in a lot of Washington. If all you want to do is make a speech, we're here to listen to you, that's fine. [Laughs] But now you actually want us to do something, now that's a little different. I mean, "You didn't tell us you actually wanted us to do something." You know, I had fears that this was going to be talked to death. We'd have the hearing in the House and the Senate every year or two for a long, long time. But getting to the report for the bill would be hard and, and for that, (having) the right person in the right place is really what it comes down to.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.