Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ronald Ikejiri Interview
Narrator: Ronald Ikejiri
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-461-17

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's talk about the Larry King deal, and how that came about, and what the purpose was and the aftermath of that.

RI: Well, it's interesting. We got a call from Mutual Broadcasting, who I didn't know who Mutual Broadcasting was, but then I found out it was Larry King. This was before Larry King Live on television. And he had a nationally syndicated radio program, on the radio, on the air, and it usually started at, like, eleven or twelve o'clock at night at ran 'til three or four in the morning, maybe five in the morning.

TI: And how popular was this show then?

RI: Very popular. If you go online and look, I can't tell you how many millions of people listened to it across the United States. And so the good thing about it is that you're not live. So Dan Lungren and I showed up in golf shirts, and Larry King was in a t-shirt, and we're sitting around, you've got your headphones on, you're talking. And people would call in and ask questions. And so then if I thought it was a better answer for me to answer, I would point to me and I'll answer it. And if I thought it was a better answer for Congressman Lungren to answer it, then he would answer it. And if it was a touch question, I said, "Okay, who wants to take it?" and we'd look and we'd do it. I don't think it was a love fest, but I think it was mutually beneficial in the sense that we respected each other's position, even though we disagreed. But it was very, very clear to me, Larry King was like 200 percent behind the Japanese American redress effort, and I think that's why this issue came up. And in a lot of ways, I didn't know the broad reach of this program, but the next day, a Nisei farmer from the San Joaquin Valley called me in the JACL office in Washington, D.C., says, "You know, I was driving around, and I get home, and I'm listening to you, I stayed up all night listening to you." I said, "Good, I'm really glad we're getting this issue out to the American people."

And if you look at it, and I don't think things have changed that much in America, but if you fly from coast to coast, you'll never see what really makes America, and that's the Midwest. It's the farms, there's little communities, it's these little villages and all these other things, this is what makes up America. And certainly that is the group that group that came out and voted for Trump, so you cannot discount their importance. And because that is part of what makes this so diverse of a country, but also probably our core values. And that was just very, very helpful. And ever since then... it was helpful in a couple ways. One, I think it diffused a lot of the anti, the animosity or the disagreement that we had with Congressman Lungren, that we supported after the commission was created that he be appointed to the commission? Probably not. Because we knew where he was going to come from, but then we knew that if we get enough people that would be even handed or a little more toward us, it would be fine. And as a result, it worked out. The most important part, I don't think anyone has come out and attacked the commission findings in and of itself, I mean, that part is very, very clear. So that was very helpful to creating this foundation for the creation of that commission.

TI: So Larry King, that must have been pretty heady stuff for you, because you're still in your late twenties, you're on...

RI: Yeah, I was probably around thirty years old.

TI: Thirty years old, you're on with Larry King and debating a Congressman, U.S. Congressman.

RI: One, I didn't know who Larry King was, so I wasn't... after I found out, I said, "Oh, I better sharpen up here." But the other part about it is that I knew Congressman Lungren, and I told him before we went in -- and I do this all the time, even now when I'm with people and we're doing the interview, and we're going to be on television or otherwise have a debate -- I say, "This is where we are. I will respect your position. I may not agree with every part, but I want you to serve me with the same." He said, "That's fine." I think if you go forward with that, it's good, because it helps. The more times you have this ability to share an idea, after a while the seeds of it start to grow, perhaps, and in a very positive way. And I believe that it was probably one of those things that help start at least to calm down the extremism to say that we're not going to even have a commission. So that's a plus. You know, just like going on National Public Radio or other things like that, community event, you know, with the JACL, I think at that time we had maybe, I want to say thirty-five chapters throughout the United States, and it sounds great because we have a national organization. In fact, it's the only national organization for Japanese Americans, and that's why the Nikkei members of Congress said, "Well, we're going to have to utilize network, and that network is going to be pursued with the JACL. And then all other groups would branch into it, and we would create this movement to go forward.

And you have to understand, if you go across from the White House, it's called Lafayette Park. Lafayette Park was the statue of a man on a horse, and he's the one that designed Washington, D.C., the layout for Washington, D.C. In Lafayette Park, you don't see a statue of a committee, you see one person. The difficulty is this. Is that in legislation, you cannot have a committee. You really have to have one person that's pushing forward with an issue. You have a committee to give you ideas and input, but you got to have one person, one group to push it forward. And so if you... you have to have people, and maybe in the end on the Senate side, maybe it was Senator Matsunaga that said, "Okay, this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it." And, you know, with the support, with the other Senators, certainly Senator Inouye, Senator Ted Stevens, Alan Simpson, and that whole dialogue, that whole story between Congressman Mineta and Senator Simpson, is that luck? Is that fate? That is something beyond...

TI: Did Norm talk about that in those early days? His relationship with Senator Simpson.

RI: He talked about it, but he talked not in the way that you see it today, and not in the way that you saw it on CBS morning program. I mean, how wonderful is that to have that experience? So in so many ways, the Japanese American community, even though the hardships of internment, there were a lot of blessings, that came out from that. And it's really up to not only Sansei, we're kind of, about done, but the Yonsei, Gosei, and Rokusei and how they carry it forward with that? That's huge. And I think that's what this is all about. I never thought about it. And when I went to Washington, D.C., in 1978, that I'd even be talking about the importance of redress forty years later. Not until President Trump started talking about imprisoning Muslims and all these other kind of factors involved, that I said, gee, the ugly head of racism, the ugly head of this kind of thinking just pops right up.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.