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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Saburo Sato Interview II
Narrator: Frank Saburo Sato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 8, 2017
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-446-10

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TI: Okay, so now you go to VA, Inspector General VA under the Reagan administration, this is (1981).

FS: Yeah. Let's see...

TI: Well, let me ask this question, I'll bring it back. So you're now a presidential appointee, inspector general, Reagan administration, (1981). You became the national secretary treasurer of the JACL 1983. Prior to that, you weren't that involved with the JACL, you were pretty focused on your career. How did you get into the JACL? Tell me that story. Because most people, when they were especially a national officer, they're there for years if not decades, kind of working up to the region, maybe join the board, and then finally becoming an officer. You bypassed all that, so explain how that happened.

FS: Well, what happens is that in Washington, I used to meet with some key folks, Ray Murakami, David Nikaido, Hideki Hamamoto, Ron Ikejiri, and some other key folks. And so they knew when I became the IG that I was meeting with various people at high levels of government. So Ron Ikejiri, who was the Washington, D.C., rep for JACL at the time, said, "You know, Frank, we need your help." He says, "Why don't you run for JACL president?" I said, "No, I don't know the organization, I've not been involved." So he says, "Well, why don't we get you as a JACL secretary treasurer first? And then you can get to know the people, the people get to know you." And so he convinced me to run for secretary treasurer, and that's when I became JACL secretary treasurer.

TI: How does that work? Did you have to run against other people? Was there a vote or was there a campaign? How does that work?

FS: You know, it's an interesting thing. There was talk that there would be two or three candidates for secretary treasurer, but they never materialized. I don't know what happened, but once my name went in the hopper, nobody else showed up. I don't know whether they were intimidated, nobody knew me, but they knew what my position was. So anyway, I ran unopposed and was elected. But I tried to be very careful about my position professionally as against JACL.

TI: Now I want to ask you, as you said you wanted to maybe get to know the organization, the organization would get to know you, what were your first impressions when you would go to a national board meeting or you start meeting with the JACL and you're learning about redress, where they're at, what's your impression of what's going on and how it's being done?

FS: Well, I don't recall too much about what my impressions were. I was aware of the fact, of course, that it's a different organization than a professional organization that I was dealing with in my professional circles as against my working relationship in the government. But we had really a wonderful group of people. I remember this lady from, gosh, I can't think of her name now, wonderful lady down in Southern California, she was on the board. You couldn't find better people than people that were serving on the board. Well-meaning, I just really enjoyed their company and working with them. It was altogether different from the professional and business environment that I was dealing with.

TI: Because in that environment, you're dealing with literally billions of dollars, quick decisions, needing to get things done, and now you're with a community based organization, volunteers, and so yeah, it's probably very, a large adjustment for you.

FS: Well, it was really a different environment, but I have to tell you honestly, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. And I would probably not have agreed to run for national president if I didn't enjoy the people and the environment. But I had this underlying feeling in my own mind when this whole redress thing that was driving me at the same time, I have to admit. So it was a good experience all the way around.

TI: Now, what do you think you brought to national JACL when you joined? Because, again, you come with lots of experience, connections, knowledge. So if you were to look back and some were to say, "Frank brought this to national JACL in 1983," what would that be?

FS: I'd say that I contributed to the understanding of JACL of the political process and the mechanism for getting a bill through the Congress. It's not something that you just throw in the hopper and get done, you have to work at it and know who the players are that can move the programs for you. I think we had several discussions like that.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.