Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grayce Uyehara Interview
Narrator: Grayce Uyehara
Interviewer: Larry Hashima
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 13, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ugrayce-01

<Begin Segment 1>

LH: This is a Densho interview with Grayce Uyehara. Interviewer is Larry Hashima on Saturday, September 13, 1997 in Los Angeles, California. Thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us, Ms. Uyehara. I want to begin with some background questions. A lot of people got involved in redress because they had personal experiences during the wartime that made them feel compelled to do the redress movement. Was that the case for you?

GU: Yes, I think if one considers the fact that I was born on July (4), 1919. I was by that time a college student, a senior at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. And before the actual graduation ceremony I was called into the college president's office and I saw some military officers there and got a little concerned, but actually they were there because in Stockton they have a Quartermaster base and air force, and they needed someone to teach Japanese and I guess the college president was vouching for me. And also, I was recommended by some other people. Interesting part is that I am -- was not a good student of the Japanese language because as a music major, most of my time was spent practicing the piano, so I never followed through with going to Japanese school. And therefore, I said to these officers that there are many other people who can teach the Japanese language at the Quartermaster base. They replied that the lesson was all prepared and because I'm of Japanese ancestry they were certain that my pronunciation was correct. And so I agreed to do that so I felt that I was doing my patriotic bit.

Then the order came and that upset the whole community. And again, being the oldest daughter, though I had an older brother, I had a sense that I had to look after the family. And I also saw the upset. I was old enough to know the impact of the order on the whole community. Also from the standpoint of within (our) family, a family with seven children struggled and I had the kind of parents who wanted all their kids to go to college, so all of us worked, father, mother, and the kids earning money for tuition and all. In fact, because I worked my way through college by peeling tomatoes in the tomato cannery, my piano teacher cries whenever he saw me come back, because the other students were from wealthier families and come back with hands all ready to start working. But my hands were generally ruined when I went back to school. So with that background, and then going to the Stockton Assembly Center, the other impact was that neither did my soldiers students understand what was happening in America at that time. Because I'm a very friendly and outgoing individual, and I taught and cared about them, and they sensed my concern that they were going to the South Pacific, so they came to the fence of the Stockton Assembly Center with a box of chocolate candy and a bouquet of flowers. And blond young soldiers, who were about my age, actually shed tears that I was on the other side of the fence, so I knew that there was a dichotomy here in the United States with Executive Order 9066.

And I think many people have spoken about the camp life, the difficulty of it and how many of the families broke down as a consequence, because we no longer had the structure of our community. So again, being the oldest daughter... and the middle son graduated from high school in the Rohwer relocation center, he went out to Philadelphia, to Temple University, and the arrangement was made through the National Student Relocation Program, a program that was set up by the American Friends Service Committee, who really wanted to help all of the people who were behind barbed wires to find their freedom and to resume their education. And I think that was one of the programs that really made a difference in the lives of our people. And I think we laud the American Friends Service Committee, because today many of the people who are doing quite well benefited from that particular service.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LH: I want to go back because you mentioned that right before the war broke out you were actually ready for graduation from the College of the Pacific. Did you actually get to graduate and receive your diploma from Pacific?

GU: No, one of the requirements was to play a piano concerto and I was at the stage where I had the first movement all memorized, and then you have to practice with a college orchestra and perform in a recital at the college conservatory auditorium. I did not meet that particular requirement, but I also was a student who had made the honorary musical sorority, so they figured that I had met everything else. So I received my degree in absentia and that was another heartbreaking incident, because for me, I really wanted to have my parents see me receive that diploma and it was mailed to me.

LH: And you mentioned that you were the oldest daughter. Were you the first one to actually go to college in your family, or...

GU: Well no there are, my brother was also going, but I guess my mother was an unusual Japanese mother, because many of my Nisei friends, as we talk about growing up and about our education, there are some women friends who actually have a residue of anger left in them because of the whole Japanese culture of focusing on the male. And I guess because my mother wanted to become an opera singer herself, and came from the upper class of the Japanese family where women just married properly and that sort of thing, she steered all of her children as much as possible into music. And I guess again that was unusual, because at that particular time in most Japanese families, only males went to college, okay? [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LH: Okay, well, we're going to skip ahead a little bit. But after you left the camp, did you return to California?

GU: No, I never returned to California, and I'll tell you what went through my head. I figured if they didn't want me, I just didn't need to go back to California. So from Rohwer, I went to St. Cloud, Minnesota, to state teachers college, figuring that the original plan in those days was to work more or less in the Japanese American community. Engineers, you know, couldn't find jobs, they ended up as draftsmen. Lawyers practiced in their communities, dentist, doctors and so I was going to become a piano teacher, meant that I would be teaching in that community since I was already the church pianist and organist. And so that would have been my, the route I would have taken if I had stayed behind in California. And so going into a big area like Philadelphia, where they have, you know, the Curtis Institute and top musicians, all of those kinds of things -- just teaching piano wasn't something that I wanted to do. But nonetheless I felt that I had to have more credits, and that was why I went to Minnesota to get some actual teaching credentials. And then the level of work at the school was not at the level that I wanted to study, so went back to camp and from camp I went back out to Richmond, Virginia, to work with the Southern Baptists and became their editorial secretary, in Richmond, Virginia.

Interesting thing is that when people left camp, almost every one of us who went out to work could only find service jobs. And if you wanted to, if you were an engineer, and you wanted to work for a major company, they needed engineers but you had to wait until you received your navy and army clearance. Well, when I went to Richmond, Virginia, because I was the first person of Japanese ancestry to arrive there, I guess, or maybe they had surveillance on the others, it was not too far from Norfolk Naval base. And so I had this tall lieutenant evidently assigned to me. And the two Caucasian women who are -- one is a top Presbyterian, you know, staffperson and this other one that I was working with is a Baptist person, they said, "Grayce, let's cook a sukiyaki dinner and invite him over to dinner." Because every time I got on a bus there he would be in the back, you know. So we invited the lieutenant over and we talked and, "Oh," he thought, "gee, she is just as American as I am." And evidently he must have talked with his superiors and that stopped.

And shortly after that I heard from my brother that I really should come up to Philadelphia, because there was still two siblings and my parents left in camp, and by that time the relocation program was, you know, going into full swing. So then I moved to Philadelphia and we had the help of the Quakers again. And the little group called the Fellowship House had an apartment on the top floor of their building, and they converted that into rooms that would accommodate a fairly large family. One brother already was in the 442nd infantry and he was abroad. And another brother was studying at the University of Michigan, and the sister was at the University of North Carolina, but it was all the four other, three other kids that we had to be concerned about. But when we got to Philadelphia, and that must have begun to turn the direction of my life, because I immediately plunged into work with the War Relocation Authority as a volunteer individual, because as I said, the work was menial. I became a typist at Family Service of Germantown. Family Service in most communities is a very big social service institution that deals with family breakups, children's problems and things like that, and so I became the receptionist and the typist. And mind you, I already had a college degree, even if I received it in absentia. So everybody else I knew became, you know, house cleaners, gardeners and those were the kinds of work people found. A fellow that I married in 1946 also came from the Rohwer camp, he came directly with another group of young people. And in his case he was loading newspaper, getting it ready for going into the printer, I guess. And again, because he had to wait for the army and naval intelligence clearance, that was the kind of work that he had to do, and eventually Westinghouse Corporation hired him, but it took a little while. So we spent a lot of our time, because our jobs didn't require that much energy on our part, and we began to go around and speaking at churches (and schools) like at Bryn Mawr and communities all surrounding (Philadelphia).

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LH: And this was immediately after the war that you started doing this?

GU: Yes, (during and after the war). After getting over there, all because the War Relocation Authority needed that kind of help. They needed help in terms of finding housing and employment and things like that, meeting trains, they just didn't have enough paid personnel. And so, I guess both of us, the fellow that I married and myself, we are that, we just both thought that way, that we should help our community. So we met trains and did all kinds of things to help people get established. Eventually a family came from the Arizona camp and I don't know which one, but they were more rural kinds of people, and just because they knew my parents, they came out and that was really a big mistake for very simple people to come to a big sophisticated city like Philadelphia. And within a year, the mother had a mental breakdown, and I had to make arrangements to have her placed in a mental hospital, you know, right outside of Philadelphia. So there were tragedies taking place, too, family breakdowns, and at the same time there was opportunity to do things that made life easier for other people.

And it was all taking place at the International Institute of Philadelphia where the director herself was concerned about what was happening, because International Institute is the organization in the United States that is set up to help with immigration and with displaced people, and we were displaced people. And so the director -- and I've just gone blank, and this is the kind of things that happen lately. But she was so wonderful in getting other community social service agencies, to form a counsel of social service agencies, so both my -- and again he was not my husband (then), but he became my boyfriend -- but he became the president of the Nisei council and we became members of this city-wide social service council that worked to help the Japanese Americans. And that got us very much involved. One of the first things that I did was to form a club of teenagers, kids that were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and then another group that was older and they were called the Club Jesters -- they picked their own name. I don't know what it meant, but nonetheless that was their name. So I planned outings and, you know, Philadelphia has a beautiful, the biggest city park of any place in the United States, and we'd go for outings there and have cookouts and things like that. And then I would follow through, there was some bright kids including my kid sister, where they were able to get into the (Philadelphia) Girls High School, which is like a private academy, actually, for all the brightest kids. So there was so much to do at that time that one just kept busy and we tried to bring in as many organizations and agencies to help our people get settled and to advance.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LH: Well, given your sort of work with immediately after the war, and all these social welfare programs for the community, how did that eventually sort of dovetail into the redress movement for you?

GU: Before it dovetailed into the redress movement, all of that work led our, the director of the International Institute -- her name was Marian Lantz -- okay, it comes back, that's what usually happens -- then arranged for a scholarship for me to go the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. She told me that I was a natural born social worker, that she saw that I had capacity to be a leader, and so that the board of directors felt that I would make a difference in the community. And so that was a real great opportunity that almost turned my life around, because with proper credentials... and it also opens fields for you and it also makes, it helps you to get the right contacts, you know, in terms of the helping process. And so if, once you become a social worker, and the Penn philosophy is a functional one where you involve the individual and use, you use the individual's strength and help them to see options and be able to make choices and help them to go through the process. And I thought that that was also the right school for me. And so I eventually helped women who came from Japan married to American GIs, half of them were married to blacks, and there was division and separation among, between them and to bring them together. So that was another skill that I learned that I eventually, when I worked for the educational school system, I ran conflict resolutions for the whole school district and in two districts that I ran, it was a topic that no one else wanted to take. So personally, there was an evolvement that I was not consciously doing, but I somehow changed from the way I was brought up, that as a female I was to stay in the background and not to open my mouth too much. But I guess I was already doing that when I was back in Stockton, because my uncle was the elder of the church, and on some Sundays he would appear at our house and tell my mother that she really had to clam my mouth. Those were not the exact words, and so I guess I was already that way. But I learned that I had to speak out and that you got nothing by being a "quiet American."

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LH: So do you think that the degree at Penn, sort of the work you did at Penn, and the school, the School of Social Work, was that really something that sort of motivated you for the next for the next years of your life?

GU: Well, those things have to, the opportunities have to come and you don't know when the opportunity is going to come. But we started and continued the work in Philadelphia, we eventually -- after we got married, the following year we established the Philadelphia Japanese American Citizens League. 'Cause we felt tying in with a national organization will help us to know what is going on among our people and the rest of the country.

LH: And what year was this that you organized?

GU: We organized the Philadelphia JACL in 1947. So we just earlier this year celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Philadelphia JACL. So that it gave me opportunity to meet Japanese American leaders throughout the country, but that was not my very first impact with JACL. When I was a freshman in college, JACL had been sponsoring national oratorical contests, and the Stockton chapter encouraged me to compete and my high school English teacher also helped me to write out the oratorical speech. And both in 1938, when I went to Portland -- no, Los Angeles -- and in 1940 to Portland, I represented Northern Cal. At that particular time, the California JACL was divided into half and we had a Northern Cal district and a Southern Cal district. So that I am thankful for, because I never had any fear of appearing in public, and if one is to go out there and fight for any cause, you really have to be able to stand up in front of a group and, you know, say what needs to be said, and not be hesitant about saying what you want to say.

I have (a weakness with the English language). Even my kids, my Sansei kids say, "You know, Mom, I guess because you grew up in a family where the language was Japanese, you never really mastered the language." [Laughs] And I said, "Well, I don't know if it's that," because I said my husband's family spoke less English, but then he was just a linguist, you know, so I guess I never worried. It's the idea that I have to get across and sometimes my mind moves too fast before I put my sentence together. So eventually what happened was because I was so active in JACL and before we knew it, we pretty much had attended most of the national conventions, both my husband and myself. The early ones we dragged our children to the West Coast and left them with a relative. So we have many friends in JACL. And it was at the 1978 National Convention in Salt Lake City that a final real determination was made to proceed with redress. And Clifford Uyeda was elected the president and because he saw I was also concerned about how the organization ran things, he appointed me as a nominations chairperson for the next biennium so we would be focused on getting good leaders, you know. So that I became part of the national organization, too, about that period.

Then John Tateishi, who was appointed to chair the National JACL redress committee, eventually he asked me to join that national committee. I was not on the beginnings of it. And he provided very good materials for people who would go out and speak. And so, you know, I learned about presenting our story to the general public and then you go back and you begin to train people to go out and speak in the wider community. So it was a little different from folks who are here on the West Coast they might do something right there in San Francisco. But ours was not just in Philadelphia, we went out to all the suburban communities. Then Philadelphia also had a portion of its membership and the southern middle section of New Jersey, and those folks also did their work in New Jersey. So our potential was really wonderful in view of the smaller membership. So my personal deduction is that the folks who decided they would stay on on the East Coast instead of returning to the West Coast, I think had a basic feeling that there would be better opportunities for us if we remained east. So that I think, you know, without getting into what we call activism of the West Coast, we just naturally became part of the community and then you select organizations that are into the kinds of things that you want to see done. So I think we're, we just became natural coalition builders because we don't work really among ourselves. Our work always went out naturally to the wider community.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LH: So what were some of the important coalitions that you built to support redress on the East Coast? What were some of the other organizations that you wanted to contact and definitely wanted to get their support?

GU: Well, you know, it's very interesting and I'm sure most of the Nikkei people involved with redress agree that initially, besides the Quaker group, who always were very fair-minded people, there was also the Jewish organizations. And the JCRC -- that's the Jewish Community Relations Council -- is in almost every city. And then we have the Anti-defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and those are long established Jewish organizations and because of their experience with the Holocaust, there was no need to take our issue before them. In fact, it was just gathering of the minds, common cause. And then we did get into bringing an understanding of why we call our camp experience a concentration camp experience. We said we understand the Jews went to death camps, and we really should not use that terminology, because we were not in death camps. But I said, "What they suffered was done by a despot and the government was fascist and ours here in the United States has a Constitution as the background of how we are to operate. And so for a nation to set aside its fundamental laws, and lock us up without due process of law, by golly, it is a concentration camp when you see it in the context of a democracy." And so we were very clear about our issue and how we were framing it. Because right from the start I knew I was an American. I knew that because my parents gave me a name for the fact that I was born on the Fourth of July. And sometimes names place a burden on you, just as your sexual identity places some certain responsibility, especially like in the Japanese family. You know, you marry, oh boy, you better produce a son, to carry on the family names. Those are given. So we explained this all to our Jewish friends and they understood. And so since they were long-established and they went through the process, they gave us a lot of help and we went and spoke before them. But that help came through very immediately when I went to Washington. Now, I think before I jump to Washington, I really should discuss how is it that I went to Washington.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LH: Well, that is something, actually, I wanted to ask you. How is it that you...

GU: [Laughs]

LH: Really, I mean, you go from Philadelphia and you're working in the office there. But then how is it you sort of get into that...

GU: Yes, we were already into redress nationwide, and I was doing that as representing the Philadelphia JACL chapter. But I saw that there were so few of us, and it was only in Philadelphia -- that didn't cover the rest of Pennsylvania -- so you had to find people. You know, go to like the War Relocation Authority and, or among ourselves -- "Do you know somebody in Pittsburgh?" You know, "Where are some of our people living?" So you try to cover the whole state. Well, you begin to do that in New Jersey and then we had a chapter in New York. This sister who graduated from the University of North Carolina then had gone on to Smith College, so she was practicing in Boston and lived (near) Harvard, which is not too far from there. And another gal who also had been in camp and she was already smart enough to be active politically, so these people began to do their thing and they had workshops in the Asian American community, 'cause Boston's Chinatown is well-established. So those connections all came in to help. And so as the Eastern District Council Coordinator for the five chapters on the East Coast, I was already getting a lot of practice.

It seems as though when they made that decision in 1978 to proceed, they set up this lobbying arm, but you know we have to -- we're not fast movers, we people of Japanese ancestry. We don't act as soon as we think about something, everything had to be neat and to do it right. So it took until 1985 before fundraising started. And anybody with any sense of responsibility knows that if you are really going to mount a campaign and you intend to win, you have to raise money to have the ability to send out information at the right time, to go out and train people to do these kinds of things, and have the materials that they can use so that every person doesn't have to remake his wheel to fit into the program. Those kinds of things, those coordinated programs I learned as a member of the League of Women Voters, who have been very, very effective. Their major program was to have good information when it came time to elect presidents or governors, and they conducted series of radio and television programs and then training for all the membership and putting out materials. So it wasn't that I had to think through what is it that you have to do, because I had become active in all of these mainstream organizations whose purpose is to change what is wrong in America's system. So some folks in Washington -- and I'm talking about people of Japanese ancestry, the Nikkei members and people like Mike Masaoka. I knew him very personally, because he was one of the most dynamic speakers to come out of our community. We're not very verbal people, we don't have people who articulate as well as Mike can, but Mike was an exemplary orator. The other very, very top speaker was Min Yasui. Min Yasui was a dramatic, flamboyant, exciting speaker. He would just mesmerize his audience, because his feelings, he was able to unleash his feelings. Most people of Japanese ancestry retain a certain amount of control, but out of Min, it would just flow out, and you knew the anger and the suffering and all was felt by him personally. So that I had models. But when we didn't raise enough money, and had only $40,000 raised, then they needed somebody to go without salary.

And I... see, the word had gotten around that I had retired from the school district. I could have continued to work but this whole redress effort began to consume me because the Isseis were dying, and I was old enough at the time I left to know that the greatest harm was done to the Issei generation. Because what little they had gained was through such intense, intense pain and suffering, I mean, no other generation went through the same thing. Yes, like we couldn't get the job that we trained for, or people still, you know, say to you, no matter how long you've been in this country, "When did you come to this country? Oh, you speak English without an accent. Where did you study?" And finally, I'd begun to say that in all my speeches, that I will forever be a Japanese, all because of this face. So we realized that the educational program was going to be the major program. Because as I said to you, it's working in the school system and these intelligent teachers always wanted me to talk about Japan. And so one time I got so angry I finally had to say, "You know, I really respect you, and I always thought you were all very outstanding teachers, but I think somewhere in your education you just did not get it right, because," I said, "I am an American just as much as you are. It just so happened my parents came from the other side of the Pacific. And so if you wish for me to speak about the Japanese American experience and about racism in the United States, I will come and speak to the students. But I will not bring my kimono and my rice bowl and chopsticks -- [laughs] -- and do that kind of routine."

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LH: Well, I want to go back to what you were saying earlier because it was actually something that you touched on, but you really didn't develop, that I'd really like you to go more toward. You mentioned the fact that when the time came to go to Washington, and actually sort of pick up the lobbying effort full-time and doing the fundraising full-time, that someone had to go without salary. Now, I'm not sure what you meant by that, so could you expand on that?

GU: Oh, without salary? Well, if the goal was to raise $250,000, that was the budget for the year, which would include salary, and you raised $40,000. And the idea is to develop a big network of redress coordinators, like captains and then all these people to work under them, and if you're going to get it started then you'd better be prepared to give them things that they can work with. Because once you ask for commitment, and you don't provide them the tools and the materials to go out and do the lobbying then the thing can fall flat on its face. And I know that at that particular time in 1985, people had just really gotten back on their feet. They had lived many years without things, and then when you begin to let them feel like other Americans, you know, you have brand new cars and begun to buy homes and now maybe you want a bigger house and you're trying to send your kids to the right schools and things like that. Well, you're not feeling too rich yet and so... 'cause success in America unfortunately is based on how much you earn. $40,000, when there was a lot of publicity that the time has come, we must really act together to get redress. Nobody was that excited, so only $40,000 came in. So when the leaders -- and this included a group in Washington, and Mike Masaoka and Min Yasui and I understand Grant Ujifusa was in that group. Because by then he had written his political book. And these guys, again, whether this is a Nisei mentality, my name came up.

This is what Mike Masaoka wrote just before he died. You know, he says, "One day I'm going to tell you a story about how it was that you came to Washington." And so the guy said, "Well, Grayce resigned from a job because she is a East Coast coordinator" -- which is strictly a volunteer job. And the reason why I wanted to coordinate the whole East Coast and not just Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. There are just as many other states up and down the coast, and I understood politics enough to know that this redress battle was going to be won by the efforts we accomplished in the Midwest and the East, because I knew the makeup of the judiciary committee. If you can't convince a judiciary committee of the House first, then we'd be at it forever. That much I knew. So they said to me -- Min actually, Min Yasui approached me and said, "You know, we decided that we needed somebody to do this full-time. Will you come on as a volunteer? We'll pay you your, we'll pay you to travel to Washington," 'cause I lived in Westtown, Pennsylvania at that time, and so that meant staying at a hotel Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night, come back Thursday. And they bought me copier, I already had a good typewriter. And then we converted our family room into an office, a redress office. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday I worked out of that office, so it became a seven-day job. So that's the start of the JACL redress campaign, in October of 1995.

LH: '85.

GU: And they asked me to -- oh yeah, 1985. And they asked me to do this for five, six months. That, they were sure once I really got it started, that money would come in, and I knew that if money was to come in people had the sense that there was a momentum with redress and so I really knocked myself out and it was seven days a week. I would go in on Monday by train from Wilmington, Delaware, and then generally worked until eight o'clock at night, until some of my friends in Washington got concerned that I was in this big building. They weren't sure about security, so they felt that once the building looked empty I should also leave. So that was the way it initially started and the JACL office had one typewriter. And then you had to begin to send out directions and information to all of the chapters and to the redress coordinators, and so when you had to begin to send out like three hundred copies of things to people, and you put it through the copier, and a couple of weeks of paper came out burnt, all brown. So the machine was on its last gasp and we had to buy a new machine. We had no credit in Washington, my staff of two other people, they didn't have funds. So that meant that I had to bring the family checkbook to pay the bills to run the office also. Though I was reimbursed for those expenses, such as running the office, but some things you just have to have done, because they told us, "Oh, no, you can't just, you know, pay it at the end of the month," it's cash, 'cause they said we had no credit. We hadn't established credit. So that was the way the whole program started. It was a nationwide program, it wasn't just a community thing, so eventually we were, we got a big enough copier where you're just making mailouts of a couple of thousands and that included postage, too.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

GU: But the money did start to come in once I started to send out the articles. And these articles would say, "So and so representative has come on as a sponsor." And as you kept publishing the list and the names from other places began to come on, then the money started to come in. So it was in, the first meeting with the team in Washington, and as I said at this conference, was in Senator Inouye's office, and of course he is a senior of the Nikkei members of Congress, so we always turn to him first. Second meeting was in February of the following year and that was when my time, the commitment I made was to end. So we really had by that time, I think about $250,000, so the issue that we had talked about earlier was that we were going to have, employ a professional lobbyist, 'cause we had to get this bill through, too many Isseis were dying. Senator Inouye turns to me and to the group and says, "We don't have to find a professional lobbyist, we have Grayce Uyehara." Well, when Dan Inouye said that, then it was like, well, it looks like, you know, I have to stay with it. And of course Bill Marutani also had made a statement to me personally that the Nikkei community has really not given redress its best shot. We were just sort of playing around the edges. You know, people talk about it, they do something about it, but it wasn't an all-out effort.

And I guess eventually with various groups, other groups also beginning to really get excited that it looks like things are going to happen, more and more groups came into it. And, of course, Bill Hohri made the choice of doing it through the courts, and that's our American system, isn't it? That all of us have the right to make choices, and so people could align with any group that they want and follow through with how they wanted to fight for redress. But within JACL we had a strategy that was worked out by Grant Ujifusa, because he is the guru. But then, there also, fortunately for us, were the four Nikkei members of Congress. And theirs is a daily experience right there on the hill, and they talk with other members of Congress each day. So I always felt most comfortable with the advice that the four members gave. Because they'll say, "Well, so and so is coming on, can't you find somebody to really give it a push?"

I'll give you one example of a push. The state of West Virginia, can you imagine the state of West Virginia? I guess none of us would go there, right? Now there's coal miners and whatever else, so Harley Staggers is on the judiciary subcommittee, and he's a nice guy, his father was a former congressman if I remember correctly, and he's a graduate of Harvard, a very well-educated member. And one major problem -- his legislative aide said they haven't received one call, not one letter from anybody about HR442. Now, the Congressman really believes the cause is right but the way things work in Washington, you're going to hear from your constituents if you act on a certain bill. Well, the Congressman felt that if he heard from some of his constituents, he could say, "I heard from my constituents that I should support the Japanese American Redress bill." So then that meant... and this was repeated over and over, that's part of the whole strategy. I call Tom Kometani of New Jersey, who is very active in his Methodist church (where) he spoke of (redress), I also told him Harley Staggers is a Methodist. You have to, you have to get the information about a congressman that will be useful for your coordinator to do some follow-up. So he went to his bishop for this Northern New Jersey area, and being a bishop, it meant that he gets to all the national meetings and things so he would know more people. Bishop said, "Oh, yes I know the minister, the bishop of that area and also the minister. And so through that contact, that network, letters came to Harley Staggers' office. Another, a judge who went to Harvard also. And then I spoke at the University of Pittsburgh, and fortunately this teacher asked me to send him articles or information about redress, because he wanted to follow some and put it into his curriculum on U.S. History. So I was told, "Just get half a dozen letters," 'cause I thought I had, you had to send a whole lot, but no, he can say he heard from his constituents. And I understand at least that a dozen letters came in, okay? So that's an example.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LH: I wanted just to ask you to sort of reflect on the last couple of days in the conference and some of the things that have been said and sort of if there's anything that you, that strikes you...

GU: So you fellas also pick up a lot?

LH: In terms of...

GU: About what's going on.

LH: Oh, yeah.

GU: I don't think this happened, this sense of separation happened because of the conference, or at the conference. I imagine that it was pretty much there. And again it's unfortunate, and I don't think that my saying anything is going to make that much difference. I explained earlier to you, I think, that I do mediation work for my county courts so that I'm -- and my years and years in social work. We all come from different ways of thinking, but basically each one has a right to self-determination. And so everyone took a different track in terms of how we're going to get to redress. And as I said for me, I have always believed, because I already told you, too, that I'm very active in the League of Women Voters, I've worked with all these other coalitions and I know that all the coalitions go to Congress. Because I really feel that I have never missed my responsibility to vote since I had the right to vote. I have worked on certain campaigns starting with John F. Kennedy, and I worked so hard on Jimmy Carter's campaign that when the Prime Minister of Japan came I was invited to the White House for a reception and for another reception for Madame Ohira. So I feel that going through Congress is the right route. And then what the process that I used was not just that the Nikkei members and our (lobbying) strategist, you know, Grant Ujifusa, laid out. But it's the method that's practiced by all the other organizations that I'm a member of. So I also belong to National Education Association, we try to change education through the same political process. So it's not that one is better or another. For me, I am not comfortable using the court system, 'cause I have always fought the court system, you know, for kids. So that I feel, I feel most in control and comfortable with going through the legislative process. And so we just really should come to an understanding that everyone has to do it his or her own way, and then once that's done... we did not win redress completely, I will admit that because there are other issues, too. And possibly there are those who say we could have gotten more, but that's all hindsight. We got to a certain point, it is now more or less done. But this world and this country is still full of problems, and I hope that from our experience of redress, that Japanese Americans can come together and really make an impact in making America a much better place in resolving some of the unfinished business that's still facing us.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LH: Well, what are some of, that unfinished business that you think needs to be taken care of?

GU: Well, I think the health care problem. This nation with its wealth, it almost makes me angry that with all the education and the intelligence that's there, and of course, one knows that things are decided in the United States on a political basis, so that's why I'm saying I want us to get back into that process. And now, from our experience that we have been empowered, not just to act for us. 'Cause I think when we act on issues that help other people then we become even freer and we find strength and power to speak out more about things that happened to us and... because there's still anti-Asian violence going on and the failure yet to see people of Japanese ancestry who have, whose brain power has been recognized, but I don't know of anybody who's on the board of a major corporation. If they want to use our brain power to create the things that we sell, why can't some of our people be on the board to make decisions like that so that we will someday feel that we are truly part of this country, the decision-making process. So that's the goal I see ahead and I hope that that's going to happen.

LH: Well, thank you very much.

GU: Okay. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.