Densho Digital Repository
Emi Kuboyama, Office of Redress Administration (ORA) Oral History Project Collection
Title: Martha Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Martha Watanabe
Interviewer: Emi Kuboyama
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: May 17, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1020-2-1

<Begin Segment 1>

EK: Okay. Emi Kuboyama from Stanford University here with Martha Watanabe in Washington, D.C. It is May 17, 2019. Martha, could you just start by talking a little bit about... state your name and what you did with the Office of Redress Administration?

MW: Okay. My name is Martha Watanabe, originally from Chicago, Illinois. I've been out here in D.C. now for thirty, over thirty years, so it's almost like a second home. One of your questions was how did I get the job, right? And so it's actually sort of an interesting story. Bob Bratt, who was the administrator -- and we were really lucky to have him, because he really cared, not only about coming up with a good program, but involving the community. So he was doing his due diligence and he was going out and meeting with community people. And one of the people he met with was Paul and Lou Igasaki, who were the Washington representatives for JACL, the Japanese American Citizens League, at the time. And so Bob said, "We need to find ways to reach out to the community, I don't have those contacts," so Paul helped with that kind of a thing. And Bob being the "brat" that he can sometimes be, as we all know, basically said, "And so what else can I do for you, Paul?" And Paul said, "You know, you really need to hire some Japanese Americans on staff. Bob being Bob said, "Fine, find me some." And so Paul said, "I have just the person for you." And so then Paul called and he says, "They're starting this up, and you need to go over there." So that's actually how I got involved, and so I always used to tease Bob later on to say that, "Be careful what you wish for." [Laughs]

EK: Were you in Chicago at that point or already in D.C.?

MW: No, I was here. I was in D.C.

EK: So what was your educational background and how did you end up in D.C.?

MW: So I got a bachelor's of science -- I always get them mixed up -- and I went to MacMurray College, which is a small liberal arts school in central Illinois. I came out here to work at an ecumenical public policy group. So I was their office administrator, I did for them. So it was thirty different... all across the board, Catholic, Jewish, all the Protestant religions and all of that.

EK: So was that the job you had prior to joining ORA?

MW: No. And in between that, I went to the League of Women Voters. So that's actually where I was just prior to ORA.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.