Densho Digital Repository
Emi Kuboyama, Office of Redress Administration (ORA) Oral History Project Collection
Title: Angela Noel Gantt Interview
Narrator: Angela Noel Gantt
Interviewer: Emi Kuboyama
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: May 20, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1020-4

<Begin Segment 1>

EK: This is Emi Kuboyama of Stanford University here with Angela Gantt in Washington, D.C. It is May 20, 2019. Angela, could we start with you stating your name and where you were born and raised and your educational background?

AG: So I am Angela Noel Gantt, I've been here at the Department for a long time, so I use all three names. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, so the "First State." And I have an undergraduate in city development and urban planning with a Masters in higher education with a special emphasis on students in higher ed.

EK: And could you talk about your role with the Office of Redress... actually, first, could you start with your work experience prior to ORA and then talk about your role and your beginnings with the office?

AG: So I came to the metropolitan area to go to the University of Maryland, College Park. And while there did a variety of things. I was a residence hall director as well as a residence hall assistant. And then towards the end of college I started to look for a stay in school work study intern program, and I came to the Office of Redress. Alicie West Simpson was the person that hired me, and literally I walked off the street. And I've always really been proud of that because a lot of times you would find that people were like, oh, it was back in the day, so I'll bring your kid in, you bring my kid in, it'll work out. But literally I walked off the street, had a conversation with Alicie, and started there. Prior to that, I was a party hostess at the McDonald's, that's what I did all day long, which is not surprising when people know me. They're like, who knew McDonald's did parties? They did, and the cake was delicious. So really in higher ed. working with students, student engagement activities, student government, all those ended up being paying positions during the summers after my sophomore year. Maryland has a big conference component where Odyssey of the Mind, chess tournaments, other universities would rent out our residence halls, and so my staff would do the hospitality service. From turning the rooms over to leading tours, to doing student orientation. So we did all those things and then those led up to my senior year, really my senior spring, I was living off campus, and so I wanted to get a real job. And I applied because I had been an independent student. At that time at Maryland if you were a resident assistant, it paid for your room and your board and your meal plan. So yeah, it was a full package, and so all I had to do was tuition, which, it hurts my feelings to say, it was eight hundred dollars then. Not so much today.

But I did that, and so then I came to work for Alicie, and was in the Special Verification Unit. And so we were the group that dealt with unique cases. At the time we were really focused on gentlemen who were serving in the military units, because they hadn't necessarily been thought of in the beginning. Because you weren't really in, particularly if they had registered for the military before the situation happened in December when the war started. So we worked with those groups, we were doing research on the Germans that were involved and were making claims, and that morphed into eventually the Japanese Latin Americans, the Hawaiians and others, and non-Japanese individuals who were impacted. A white wife married to a Japanese man who decided to go to Tule Lake, so we started to research those groups. So it was a great team and a great experience. For a period of time I was on the telephone line, and "Angela" is just not an easy Japanese word to say, so then I became "Amy," which worked out really well, because my sister's name was Amy. So at work I was Amy, and at home I was Angela.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

EK: Can you talk a little bit more about the help line and what you did with that?

AG: We received phone calls that ranged from people just asking initial questions. In the beginning I think that the populations we were trying to reach were still a little skittish and hesitant. Like, "Yeah, you say this, but what's it really about?" Or the questions would be, "I don't have that documentation. Are there other ways that I can prove I am who I say I am? I was where I said I was?" And so those were the questions. It was really sort of fact-based. They were doing their fact-based research to figure out, "How can I apply?" And it could be hard, because you think you're ready to talk about a difficult time in your life, and then you get the person on the phone, and they're asking questions. And I guess in today's language people would say it was triggering, so you would have to work with people. Sometimes you did have a language challenge, other times their child would be on speaking for them, and then it's the, well, I don't know if you really like your mother, you know. So it's the managing of that relationship to help people understand what the requirements are. It was always hard if someone said, "Oh, but my husband" -- you had to be alive on August 10, 1988, to be considered initially eligible. I had several calls where the husband died on the 8th, the husband died on the 9th, "Is there anything you can do?" And I'm like, "Ma'am, the law wasn't signed until..." so those were sometimes hard calls on the help line when I was working with that. Or people that... really with the distrust, that was a hard one. "I'm going to give you the information because I want you to have it, but I don't want the money." And so my question is, "But if you don't want the money, why are you giving me the information?" "I want to be on the record." And then as we went through and we found other groups of people to be considered, and just the different information they had to provide, or even at the time when we started, so if I joined in January of '91, we hadn't even gotten to the children being born in camp. Which made sense, you're going to have kids that come about, try to figure out how, because they were six, or they were babies, and they don't know, so it's working with them to get with the parent. "Okay, well, my mother has died, she didn't make '88. Who can I get to help me? Can I get my sister to help me? We were with my dad." And even when you got to meet some of the people in the office, we had one person whose parents and sister were in camp, and just the emotion. One of the things that I'd say about working for the Office of Redress Administration was, you know, you hear about government, and it's like oh, you know, it's this big bureaucracy. But when you got to put an actual face to what you were doing, that's what made it good to go home. It really helped in saying what you're doing has a value, and you see the end of it. I had a call from someone -- this is sort of jumping ahead -- I had a call... this is May, in December from a young lady whose parent had received payment but lost their documentation. And I guess they're getting to move into an assisted living situation, and so she was born in camp, so she was a baby. So parents probably in their seventies now, but played telephone tag with the daughter to get her to... so I'm not with ORA anymore because of course we've sunset, but my number is still out there in the community. So I get the calls pretty, you know, two or three calls a year, somebody looking to get the documentation. And so then I know who to kick it over to that's still in the Civil Rights Division to help, but it's always nice to hear, and to hear the stories of, "Oh, yeah, my mom told me about her experience." I've never had anybody call me looking for documentation that did not have a fond memory of their experience with us, so that's good. I don't think the IRS says that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EK: So what, if anything, did you know about the Japanese American internment prior to starting with ORA?

AG: That would be a big zilch. So I come from upstate Maryland--Elkton, Maryland, Newark, Delaware. When I came to the project, I really believed, because of the media, that all Japanese people lived in New York, I had no idea. So I'm like, oh, California, that's not New York. Oh, Chicago, oh, Utah, none of that's New York. So I don't think it was... it wasn't in my schoolbooks. I definitely think that it was an attempt to negate a part of our history that really is a learning experience, and so I had no idea. It was learning about it through work was really exciting. And in my hometown, I had always been told, never saw for myself, but had always been told that the Klan would march on Martin Luther King's, the date of his death, in a certain part of the county. So when I would come home, I wouldn't say what I did, because I'm like, okay, you're already racist over here, I don't need to tell you what I'm doing at work. I also didn't tell other African Americans, because the first questions were, "Well, where's our forty acres and a mule?" And if I wasn't paying attention and I answered the question with what I did, I was able to take it as an opportunity to say in internment camps, people were organizing. People were saying, "Wait a minute, I was born in New Jersey, this is not right," and were able to organize for that first act that happened in the '40s, and then to continue on with it and to persevere, and to say, you know what, I wasn't with you, but I know you were there, so let me write a statement for you, and it doesn't matter that you might be two days older than I am, I'm still going to support you. And that's not something that was necessarily seen in the African American community. So definitely had some conversations with people, when I went to my ten-year high school reunion, I was clutching my pocketbook, and so, "Oh, you know, Angela's an FBI agent."

I'm like, "Ya'll know I don't run, come on." But then when they would ask me what I would do, and then I explained, yeah, I worked for the Office of Redress Administration, this is what we do. And people are like, "Well, why don't we learn about that in school?" And I'm like, I have no idea. I said, it was just a piece of history that was not shared. I am pleased to say that it is now covered with Farewell to Manzanar. I know my son read it in the seventh grade, and unfortunately for him, I read the syllabus, and when I went to parent-teacher conference, I talked to his English teacher, I'm like, "Oh, I've seen the rosters from Manzanar, I used to work with this program," blah-blah-blah, and I went and I did a whole day of, as a parent I went and did a full day of explanation. This was my experience, this is what we did, and he didn't want to acknowledge me. My children look exactly like me, they're just boys, so everybody knew. They're like, "Oh, that's Jake's mom," I'm like, "Yeah, hi." And I chaperoned other trips, so I'm like, okay, how do you think I'm going to get away with this? But the kids were very engaged, and I made them cranes, I did origami, I was very proud of myself. But now, today, I know it is covered. Farewell to Manzanar wasn't written when I was in school, but even so, everybody was like, "I like Ike," that's all they wanted to talk about.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EK: Can you talk a little bit more about how your role evolved over the time? So you were there for how many years?

AG: I came in '91, so it was '91 to '95, and then I came back '96 to close, so '96 to 2000, 2001. And I did, I started as a college student, it came down to, I started in January, I graduated in May. It was pass Math 110, which was baby math, for which I have much phobia, or look for a job. And so I'm like, "I've got to pass math," so I spoke with Aileen Fukuda, who was my first line supervisor in the Special Verification Unit. She talked to Alicie, Alice talked to the administrator Bob Bratt, they were like, "Oh, she's a good kid, yeah, she can stay." So then I became a federal employee at that point in time, still working, then I think I was a program analyst. So we would do the research, we would go to the archives, we had an archivist, Cora Beaver Shelly, we would go with her to look out at Suitland, Maryland, to see the records, to look through the books. And moving through that, really pulling in all the research, and that was the time when we were starting to say, well, wait a minute, what about the Hawaiians, wait a minute, what about the children, what about the Japanese Latin Peruvians, how are we going to accommodate these different groups? So it was behind the scenes assistance, still dealing face to face with clients. As people came in... as people called in for their applications, helping them, answering questions. And we had some basic answers, you know, if you�re applying for your parent and they were not alive on the tenth of August, unfortunately, they would not be eligible. If you all moved from the West Coast to New Jersey in September of '41, '42, as opposed to -- if you moved too early, or you just didn't have anything, you had no documentation, and giving people suggestions. Well, have you tried this? Were you affiliated with a church? Did you do a Cub Scout troop? You know, just trying to get people to figure out where the documentation was. And it was always impressive how many people still had an envelope from their house in California. And that was just something that some people did have, or even if it was a letter where it went from California to Chicago and it mentioned you specifically by name.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AG: And then as we began to grow and the program got a little bit bigger, we had a number of changes, and I got into the payments realm. So my next to last official job was being the payments person. And that was a different role because it really, it dealt with the IT side of the house, making sure that we had the proper records in the proper order to be issued. I was sharing with a staffer today that I used to... when it was time to pay, we would take a big tape that looked like a movie reel, and we would take it over to the Bicentennial Building and they would cut the checks, literal IRS checks. And I would have to go over and pick up from a man I'll never forget, Chester A. Buster, and pick up the checks, and we'd have to count the checks to make sure that if I came to get a thousand checks, I've got a thousand checks. And then coming back to the office, pre-Uber, pre-Lyft, just strolling down the street with eight million dollars on my back, because I'm just walking. And did not think to take a cab, no, because I was, what, twenty-two, twenty-three? But still feeling like I had going across my head, "Eight million, eight million." And then just even the logistics of getting the payments out. We never had a loss... we never had a loss, people lost their checks, we never had a loss when we were doing the processing. But the suite would go on lockdown to make sure -- and it was an assembly line process -- even through the point of the purple glue sticks, making sure they were glued out and that the name was in the window. And then helping to verify, people knew, they would get a letter ahead of time saying, "Hey, in the next three weeks, you should be receiving your redress payment. If you have not received it within six weeks, please let us know. It's going to come in this type of envelope." And we did have some instances where checks did not arrive for whatever reason, and that's back-end research to work with the treasury department to make sure that it's not been negotiated. If it's been negotiated, then we would go through legal processes with the person to sort of figure out who negotiated it. One of my favorites was a gentleman who was very environmentally friendly, sort of, because he was recycling, but then he threw the check in the fire pit. And I'm like, okay, well, that's not good for the environment because you're hitting the ozone, but we didn't think about global warming at that time. So he burned up his check, so he sent me like a little teeny corner. And he was a younger guy so he definitely got "Angela." He's like, "Angela, here's the corner back." I'm like, okay... his name was Michael, I don't remember what his last name was. But, so we would have people do that, or people who held onto the checks for such a length of time that they had expired. And so we would have to do a reissue. And you could understand, and then you had people who just did not want to cash it. "I want it, I want to show my children, but I don't want to do it." I'm like, "But think of how you could invest the money." "No, I just want the check." So they would frame it, and they would tell us, "Hey, I framed it. I'm not going to cash." Because we would have to go, once we ran our reports, because okay, we issued six hundred checks, five hundred and ninety-two have been negotiated and reconciled. For the eight, reach out to the eight, "Oh yeah, no." And that was really it, it's like, "No, I'm not going to cash �it, so you can stop calling." "I got to call you four more times." Like, "Okay, fine, I'll talk to you four more times, but I'm not going to."

So really in the payments realm it was managing the money, making sure, working with the executive officer, that all of our allocations were lined up appropriately, that we had the resources to get the checks out in a timely manner, and then monitor to make sure that they were being paid in a timely season. And it could be hard because as we got into younger eligibility groups, the appreciation of, well, yes, our birthdays are two days apart, but for whatever reason, you're getting yours before I'm getting mine. I think people were very used to the orderliness that the organization ran with that they knew that it was by age. And that in the community, because the community would have lots of different meetings to explain to people, "But you've got to get your paperwork in. It doesn't matter that you're younger, you turned it in first," they're still going to hit by age. But as we got into younger, particularly the kids that were in camp, you would get more of, "Well, why haven't I gotten my check? My girlfriend Betty Sue got it." "Sorry." Or Betty Sue neglected to tell you it wasn't her check, it was the check for her parents. Oftentimes some of the more difficult conversations I would have would be, let's say, for unmarried women who thought they would get a siblings check. They didn't understand that it was a parent-child relationship. It was a vertical relationship, not a lateral one. And people just sort of thinking that, oh, I thought I would get my brother's. But saying, "No, it's the parents'." "Well, we haven't seen this kid," all families have separation, "I haven't seen my brother in twelve years, what do you mean you can't just divide it by two?" Because we have it listed, and until we can find some evidence that he is not available, that he's not on this side. And we would hold stuff, working with the attorneys, we would hold some of those payments in the safe that we had in the office until there was nothing else to do, and then we would reissue that payment. But then we had to verify again, okay, your mother's check was cut by four, we held onto one, now we've determined that that fourth person cannot be found. You other three, need you to re-verify, where do you live, show us the information. Most times those three were available, but sometimes somebody else had gone on, so then it's getting that documentation. So that could be a little bit of back and forth. Generally speaking, people were good natured about it, but there were definitely those times when they had something planned and we weren't moving fast enough, so I think that's with anybody.

EK: Were you involved with securing the apology letters from the White House?

AG: Yes, for President Clinton, we had to go and pick them up, actually. I remember getting them printed, and I think he made some slight tweaks to it. You could definitely tell what his name was. I think with President Bush, I have one of those, it was a souvenir, but looks like "Cybird," and you look later and you see it's Poppy Bush. But yes, in terms of getting them and getting the reprint and even inserting that, people really appreciated that. I think that as you went on and you talked to some of the older recipients, that made them whole. The money is nice... or the money isn't nice. I definitely had people say, "It's blood money, I don't want any of it." But the apology, to know that the country had apologized. And even as the organization started to develop the monuments and the memorials to the internment, people really appreciated that, those kinds of things, because they go on forever. The money comes, the money goes. But to be able to say I can go to First Street in Washington, D.C. and see the different, the cranes, and see what it means, and see the different camps represented, and to go to other places and to be able to just sit. And I've taken my children, I have two boys, they're fifteen and nine, but I took them when they were younger over to the one on First Street and said, "This is how Mommy got here, this is where I started." And that was before I went to Jacob's class, so he shouldn't have been surprised, but he was. He's twelve.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EK: Were you involved with the first check presentation ceremonies?

AG: So I was not. I came after. That was Dick Thornbush... Thornburgh, Richard Thornburgh, he was the AG (Attorney General) at the time. I came to the department after, because that would have been in October of '90, and I came in January of '91, so I missed that first one. But I would say, even coming in as a new employee, there was still a buzz, just because people just felt so good. And one of things about the staff at the time, we were a United Nations. I mean, you had everybody... and everybody from all four corners. You may have had African Americans, you had Caucasian Americans, you had Asian Americans who did and did not have an association. We had Indian Americans from the continent India, and even in terms of when I think about what helps me as a manager today, it was that experience of having all different types of people and getting everybody... how do you set goals for a team? You definitely saw that in terms of the verification units and how outside, you may have some sect issues here, but you know what? 1331 F Street, this is what we're doing, and this is how we're getting it done. But there was definitely a buzz and an energy, and people were feeling very proud about having really made an apology. And it was the first time I think that the rest of the world, particularly on my side, the East Coast, learned about the internment camps. Because there was nothing on the East Coast. Chicago tends to be... I think back on where were we mailing stuff to, you had a random New Jersey, a random Connecticut, but it really was on the left half of the Mississippi, Chicago, Utah, Arizona, California. But I think that that effort really helped people to understand the country can really do a horrible thing, but can get it right, or can make an attempt. Because I'm sure there are people, I don't know that we had any... I don't know who was the oldest living recipient at this minute, but their children are still here, and so their families know the history if they chose to share it.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EK: So that's actually a nice lead-in to, I wanted to discuss the outreach efforts. What was your role with the outreach efforts, and where did you go, and can you kind of just describe what these efforts were like?

AG: They were everything from major conference-style events, workshops, to, hey, let's call this one person and work them through. So I tended to be more in the individual touch. I would get cases from Aileen or from Tink to say, "Hey, can you call and work with this person?" And, you know, there's a line, because they have to tell you the information. You can't feed it to them, you can't really steer them. And so that would have been my biggest thing, I did have the opportunity to go to do a workshop in, I want to say we did one in San Francisco and then we did one in Hawaii, which was a great time because we would work with members of the community to get them set up to make sure that our coming was published in all appropriate languages, that we had all the resources there and that we had the time to spend. Because folks were not spring chickens, I mean, the recipients, not the team. We were middle chickens. But in terms of you don't want to rush somebody that wants to tell a very painful story. And so I think that there were times when we would have lines that I saw for myself or that I heard from the team that were just super, super deep, to where you had to get chairs for people to sit and wait because you've got this eighty... the eighties and nineties is different from the eighty today. So you had people that really waited, and there was a lot of emotion, and people would have all of their papers in a bag, and you would have to sort of help them work through it. And you see in people's faces, they're looking at the envelope, and they're like, oh my god, that was my best friend who wrote that, and then they have to process through that to actually answer your question, okay, what street was it on?

But we had workshops, we worked with the community, we would do... I can remember doing telephone campaigns trying to locate people, and this was pre-Google, pre-Siri, pre-everything, pre-flip phone. And so it's going through the phone book and saying, "Okay, can we research online a phone book for the Chicago area for 1975?" to try and find people. And then I did have one phone call where I called and the person had just passed, and so it was like, okay, you figure I'm twenty-two or twenty-three, and how could I get out of this gracefully and respectfully? And that family did eventually come back. I gave them my direct dial, and they eventually did come back later and apply and received what was due to them. But it was just my timing which was off, it was just a big bust on that. But I don't ever recall hearing any stories of bad workshops. I think that all of our workshops were successful because we did a lot of pre-planning. Even to, I can remember having a conversation once on the font of the form to make sure that it was big enough, making sure that we had at least somebody that could communicate, making sure that whatever organization we were partnering with was prepared, and that we had gone through the logistics and we just didn't show up. Because even then I think you said, "Oh, I'm from the Department of Justice," "Oh, I'm from the government," and people are like, "What are you doing?" So working... when Sox Kitashima passed and her family asked the administrator, Bob Bratt, who was no longer at the time of her passing, the administrator. But when they asked him to come at her services, what bigger compliment is that? And they had become friends, of course, but I met you at work, in a not necessarily easy job to do, because there were definitely times when Bob had to say no, and here's why it's a no. But to be asked to speak in her final audience is huge

And that's the kind of thing as a young professional, when you think and you look back on your life of what kind of boss do I want to be, what kind of worker do I want to be, hands down, my experience with the Office of Redress Administration colors everything I do today. I think that my current staff -- so I've had two staffs in my current job, one in human resources and one in business resources -- totally different types of personalities, they all know DeDe, they all know Joanne, they've all heard of redress. When I have shared with them, I guess it's over there, what the program was about, and some of them are millennials and some of them are older, but they have no idea. And so then I'll just sit and like, "Okay, I've got to go now," because I just keep going and going, "And then we did this and then we did that," but it was a fabulous opportunity to learn about the history of our country, learn how we could make it better, and also to just... it's not a paper thing. The IRS probably, we know they talk to way more people than we ever talked to. But I think the impact that we had on individual lives, and the feeling that you took away from when you helped. Taking away from... there was a gentleman, Mr. Kitashima, who always called me Amy, but by the end of our conversations he started to call me -- like he worked on Angela. And I remember the first time he called me Angela, I'm like, oh yeah, it's okay, because he knew that, I said, "Oh my work name is this," and I'm playing it off because I'm twenty-something. But the first time he called me Angela was just huge. Or the gentleman that sent us like a hundred and fifty pounds of onions, which was a love offering. We were at 1331, across the street from The Shops, which was a place in D.C. And was just so... he was a farmer, and was just so touched by what people had done, and that's something... you can't accept a personal gift for doing your work, you just can't, that's just procurement regulations. But that was something perishable, so we put them out in the breakrooms, so everyone was like, "Oh, I don't even like onions, but I'll take pictures." So that was really cool.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EK: So you touched upon this a little bit previously, but I was wondering if you could talk more about, now that you've got this broad experience in federal government, what were some things that were unique about your ORA experience at that time, or the way that DOJ managed the program?

AG: I really believe that we put the people first. So, again, I started as a college student, so I don't know anything. I mean, I had had managerial responsibilities up to that point, but watching the adults in the room manage different personalities, be responsive to the client, and really establishing a work ethic, is what I take today. I think that we worked as hard as we played. We definitely, everybody rolled up their sleeves, and that's the thing that I think I take most from, Joanne Chiedi and DeDe Greene particularly. Both were SES (Senior Executive Service) women, at the time, they were fourteen, fifteen, senior level managers, but there was nothing for Joanne to say, "Well, give me the purple glue stick and let me go." And with her in particular, being protective of the staff and taking the time to teach, okay, "This is the way that we process a special verification form. Do you understand and let me show you again." And I would not say she is a teaching... she was not somebody you think, oh, they're going to be a teacher, but definitely had an educator's spirit in terms of making sure that you understood the why behind what you were doing, and allow you to take the process in your own way, but give you the foundation. Just didn't give you something and then say, "Okay, well, figure it out." She was there with you to get through it. And that's one of the things that I definitely tried to take with my own staff. Making sure the numbers are right. I mean, there would be nothing... if we had lost even one check, our credibility would be shot, but we never lost a check. Now, people that got them, lost them, but we never lost a check. We never had any, integrity was always critical. Making sure that whoever -- the term now is senior leadership -- but the Pauls (Suddes), the Bobs (Bratt), they knew what was going on. There was nothing, I never felt that, as a new employee or even as a middle employee, I could not go to the administrator to say, "Hey, we're seeing this trend happening," my mind goes to today, "We're seeing this trend happening and we want to follow it and flowchart it out." Wasn't the language you used in the nineties, but it was the same concept. How could we make sure the process was efficient so we could be responsive to the client as soon as possible. And that was definitely something that was big, but I think that we had a lot of care. And I would say that you don't see that talked about today as much in the workplace, but there was a lot of across the board care and love for the staff, from the supervisors, from each other.

In my office, the current office, I have a picture of the redress team, because I went to GW (George Washington University) for a hot half a minute. And I remember one day calling Joanne and saying, "I just really want to tell you I appreciate your leadership mentality." And she said, "Are you crying?" I said, "No, it's just my eyes are watering." She's like, "Oh god, what's going on if you're appreciating my leadership style?" I was having a bad day. Some kid's mother had yelled at me. I don't know what it was. But when I went back to the group, it was like I never left. And even when I was leaving GW and I was talking to my supervisor, and she was asking, "Well, I never thought you would go back to federal service," I said, "But I think federal service is where I belong." I said, "I understand that I came into a program that was about the people." And even though I was dealing with students, it was just a different feel. And so coming back, it was like I never left. The program had changed a little bit, I caught up to what the changes were, but I definitely think that just the ability to be engaged with people at all levels. Now, some organizations, not all, make a big distinction between contractor and fed. That wasn't our reality. We knew that you might have worked for Aspen Systems or CACI, but there was never a feeling, it was a feeling of a team. It was a feeling that we did what we needed to do to make sure that the people who were impacted by this egregious act were cared for. And that, I can't think of a better way to start a career. I still see people from the program, we've gone through everything from marriages, divorces, deaths, remarriages, kids, graduations, all the way through. And now while I am one of the few people that are still in the D.C. area of the department, it's nothing to call somebody and say, "Hey, you need something?" Civil Rights (Division) has been to my building, my current building, a couple of times, and of course, they have new players, and they don't realize my connection to them. When they're trying to coordinate stuff, and I am, naturally by nature I'm a hugger, and so I'm seeing people and it's hug, hug, hug, and they're like, "Who are you and why are you hugging everybody?" And by the end it's like, "Can I get a hug, too?" I'm like, "Oh, sure, no problem." But I think that's the aloha spirit that we had in the beginning. When I first came to my current organization, and I would just start, "Aloha." It's winter, snow, "Aloha." And someone said, "Well, are you Hawaiian?" I said, "No, I'm not Hawaiian, but I did some time in the water of Hawaii." And people were like, "Oh, 'cause you always say that." I said, "That was my first job, and it really was about the aloha spirit," we had it before we realized that that's what it was. So that's just what I take with me. But yeah, you never want there to be a need for an Office of Redress Administration again. But the core competencies, the core tenants, the core feeling, the core ways of working that were there to be replicated in other organizations, would find you in good stead. And I think those of us that have moved from that experience and tried to employ it, we have people, a couple folks have gone into education. Some people are still in federal service, but it's nothing for us to say, "Remember that time when we had to do X?" And that's twenty years ago, almost, at this point, but it still is very relevant. And just in how you treat people, and recognizing that there is dignity in all work that people do.

I remember there was a time when we did have an issue where we had two different contractors, two contractors, contract employees, that were from different... their culture was built on a caste system, and they were of different castes. And it was really, there was somebody else that was really having a struggle with it, and just to witness the manager sit down with the person who was struggling and work them through the process to say, "I understand at home that this is what it is, but here, this is how we have to work." And in watching them all get together, and even to the point where... because I can remember at the end of their time with us, like in the beginning you could see, okay, "I'm cool with you, I'm cool with you," oh, four-thirty, "I'm not cool." But at the end, it's four-thirty-two, I'm still cool with you, it's five o'clock, oh, let's have dinner, and see how they grew. And employing that kind of thing today, where, in my current staff, I don't have caste system, but I have all four generations working for me, and that can be a challenge because I have my traditionalists, I have one staffer who was in her mid-seventies, she comes in every day and says good morning to everybody. My millennials have earbuds in, they're not trying to speak. I'm like, okay, we need to figure out the dance. And I think back, much less serious in terms of caste system, it's not as serious as that, but it's still the feeling. I'm still feeling offended that you don't speak to me in the morning, and so how do I work through that? That's something that I definitely learned from my time with Redress.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EK: So you mentioned a number of, the successful attributes of the program. What were some challenges that you think the program either was successful at addressing, or ultimately was not?

AG: I don't know that we always did the best job of explaining to the outside world what we were doing. If you were in the redress-impacted community, you knew who we were, you knew what we had to do, and you appreciated it whether you received a payment or not. But when you tried to take it to other groups, or just to explain, like I said before, I didn't tell people for a long time what I did because I just didn't feel like a fight. I really didn't feel like the fight. So I don't know that we necessarily did the best at explaining to people outside of our bubble what we did and how we did it. I also think that we took advantage of the opportunity when we were having, in the beginning, so many negative responses or negative findings for those that were not in the box of -- it always cracks me up -- "voluntarily evacuated." It wasn't voluntary at all. But if you didn't fit that box, and you didn't fit that you were on a camp roster box. What we started to get, more people coming in in unique situations, when we realized that that ship stopped in Peru, I think that that is a space where it was definitely a lemon, and we turned it into, at least, a lemon smoothie, maybe not fully lemonade. And I'm pleased that we took the time to grow from that, but there was a lot that got to getting people to say, "Hey, wait a minute. We really have to think about these particular communities, because there is an equal impact." Or in looking at the instances where -- and I don't recall the ending results -- but when we had non-Japanese people impacted, but taking each of those as a challenge and figuring out how we were going to respond to it. That's the one big thing, that's one of the things I think of that we really had to work, and you had to sort of think differently. Because we knew what the act said, the act was very specific. And you could argue that it was written specifically for a reason, but part of it is you don't know what you don't know. So at the point in time, as people, as the community was getting together, Mr. Mineta, in a way, was doing the work, Patsy Mink, when they were doing the work, they were thinking about the sphere that was really at the forefront, not thinking about, well, who are the others. So it's always sad, we realized that we didn't recognize the others, but are there more others that we may have missed? You sort of wonder, are there other groups that we could have considered? We had the one man whose name escapes me at the minute who was German. And he really wanted to argue that, "No, no, I'm no different but for the fact that I'm German." What would today's law apply? Would it apply to him? Maybe.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EK: So I wonder, with the program spanning ten years and across multiple administrations, both Republican and Democratic, was your sense that there was any difference in the way that the program was administered over that period of time, and do you think that a program like this could happen today?

AG: I'll start with the first part. No, I did not see any difference, those were the good old days when we were just lowly federal servants. In the time when we were most active, you were there to do a job. Our hope was that everybody voted, you didn't know who anybody voted for. We really didn't see any difference other than when we did have to go get the new letter. That was probably the biggest, from the position that I sat in, whether it was payments, cleaning, or program management analyst or whatever, management analyst, from where I sat, there was never a feeling of difference. I could totally see a need for a program such as ours because of what's going on, currently happening, unfortunately, I think it would be colored by politics. And that is the sad part, because really, other than our little caste situation, that was it, and that got resolved. There was not any fight, everybody was always cordial and open and willing to see the other person's point of view for the good of the application, for the good of the applicant, for the good of the client. Unfortunately, I think in today's federal sphere, that willingness to have care where you still have career people willing... I have a girlfriend who says her granny says, "The fish rots at the head," which makes sense. If we have that going on, it's going to be hard. My fear is that we would have to one day have another program, and that we have not learned from our mistakes. And we have the knowledge to do a program, but I don't think it would be the same. Even... not from the political sphere, the influence of politics on top of stuff, but then also in terms of people in the workforce today.

So if the youngest person that I knew would have been Pam Rouse, because I remember her eighteenth birthday party happening in the office. And Ms. Rouse turned forty-nine this year, because I've seen her on Facebook. So she turned forty-nine this year, so if there was a need for a program in twenty years, she'd be sixty-nine. So for the people that know how to do it, would be sixty-nine. If the cultures that are the millennials, the whatever is after millennials, there's just a different mindset about work. I can definitely recall nights when we would have been in the suite at DOL4, and the midnight oil was burning, but we're like, no, we got to get ready, we got to make sure, the I's need to be dotted, the T's need to be crossed, that was the ethic that we had, they work very differently. So, "But I got yoga class." Okay, yeah, but Mrs. whomever, we need to get back to her, we need to do the research, we need to contact these people, or even the creativity. Well, they said that they had this, and we see that this case has the same thing, and they were on the same street, is there any way that we could link? Those are the things that we did. Not so much. I'm not seeing that in the staff that I have. And when I talk to other fellow managers, they say the same. So I think it would be hard, but in terms of, we never... it wasn't until 2016 where politics came into play, in my opinion.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EK: So now with the benefit of over twenty years of hindsight since the program sunset, what were your biggest personal takeaways having been involved in this very historic program?

AG: The knowledge... first it really was the knowledge of what happened, because that was never... so I was able to share, like I said earlier, firsthand with my child. Oh, no, no, I can find a roster and point to you somebody that I physically talked to. And just being that part of history, and then just to know that when people make their comments about, oh, government's too big, or oh, it's a swamp, or oh, it's just a negative, to know that I was part of something good. To know that I was in a program that made a difference, and to take that feeling and try to layer it on top of what I do now. Recognizing that everybody brings, people bring their whole self to work. So I bring the good, I bring the bad, I bring the fact the cat died, the dog ate my homework, whatever. All those things, when you're dealing with somebody doing an application, reviewing their life history and the importance of taking time to engage with a person as a person. It's not, "Next," you know, just stamp, stamps, it's, "Let me hear your story, let me work with you to find out what the issue is." You have a client that calls and they're always negative or they're always ho hum or they're just dull. You're just thinking it's their attitude, well, maybe there's something else going on. And I think that was one of the things that we learned how to do, was we worked with people, because we were talking about something very personal and very painful. So for me, it's taking those experiences, taking the knowledge that there is a person who was somebody's child behind every action that you take. There is somebody, particularly in redress, you had families that were split apart.

When people get on the, "Woe is me, it'll never happen to somebody else," well, we've had an example where it's already happened. Yes, there was... I was gonna say the original slavery of black people, but I'm gonna go even further, indigenous Native Americans were the first to have an impact. Then you have slaves, then you have Japanese Americans, then you have all other groups, now we have the Latin sect. So each group of color has had some experience, and we should be able to learn from the others so we can stop having the experience, and that's the thing that I think when I think about where people have gone from their redress experience and how they have used the good in that to try and move forward. And it might not necessarily even be in a work situation, it may be what they do in their private life, what they do for children, what they do in their communities. Last week, my old team had to use my conference room, and I was like, "Oh, I miss you all," and my new team was in the room. And so they're like, "Well, we're your people." I said, "I miss y'all, y'all are my people." And one of my new, "We thought you were my people." I'm like, well, these are the OGs, and one of my original people said, "No, the redress people are your OGs." I said, "You know what? You're right, the redress people are my original." Because even though it was twenty years, it's nothing for me to bring it up. And I appreciate the fact that they respect me enough in my position to not say, "Oh, god, here she goes again." But many of them had no idea, and they are younger than I am. Those that are younger, and for those that are older, at one point in time I was the youngest person on my staff even though I'm the director. But when they saw pictures that I had, and they would ask, "Well, what is this about?" "Oh, yeah, I know, it was because of this," I'm like, "No, ma'am, let me explain to you what happened. Let me explain to you why this took place, let me explain to you how horrible it was to live in a racetrack, to live in... the Preakness, think about where they have the horses, they had whole families in there." And then when you can get to a person on that level, to get them to sit still and think, well, dang, I've got twenty-two hundred square feet, and you're talking about less than twelve square feet for a family of five. When you can sort of do that, continued education, that is a good thing to take away. Because if you continue to tell the story, we can only hope that it won't get repeated. But if we only tell the story on the West Coast or the East Coast, and we don't tell it in the middle, that's where our challenge comes. Even though there are plenty of people that relocated to Colorado, but if the generations after have arrived, I don't have to tell you that my grandmother lived in Tule Lake or Gila River, then we lose something if we don't tell. In my own family, I am a quasi-historian, and I always have to plan the family reunion, that's what that means. But if you don't tell the story of, well, his first wife was this and the second wife was this, so therefore, you all can't date 'cause you're really cousins. You know, if you don't tell those stories, people lose it. And then they just think... and then you get to a situation where, like, "Why does our kid have five heads?" Because you all are cousins, that's why your kid has five heads.

But I think that the leadership that we had, whether it was Bob or Paul or Joanne or DeDe, they all took the time. I couldn't tell you anybody's political leaning, I couldn't tell you anybody's family leaning. Did they like Coke or Pepsi? Those kinds of things, didn't know. But what I knew was as a working person, my leaders were about the business, and they cared about their people. And that's the thing that, as a manager, I have tried to do. I want to make sure that we do it to the best of our ability, that we are never embarrassed... I can't even think of any, like I can't think of any scandal or any missed payment or any big thing. The one thing I remember, we once had a section chief, we were morphing a little bit at the time into a different grouping. A program analyst messed up on something. Didn't file a paper. Didn't do something. And the section chief really came down on the person, and I remember Joanne calling the section chief up and saying, "Let me explain something to you. Don't ever talk to my people that way. That's not your role. You have a problem, SES," he was SES and she was a (GS) 15 at the time, "you call me as the director. Do not ever talk to my people that way." She then turned around and confronted that. But what she demonstrated for me was you care for your people first, and you don't let people talk to them any kind of way. And I think that goes back to our... when somebody called in, Emiko, I can't think of a last name, good one. But I didn't call her Emiko, I said, "Hello, Mrs. Yamada," "Hello, Mrs..." whomever. You know, you never just made the presumption. If they invited you because you were going back and forth on stuff, I know I still said, "Okay, Mrs. Yamada," even though, call me... but that kind of respect, that kind of deference. And it wasn't necessarily, you know, they say the client's always right, or the customer's always right. It was a melding of that. It was respecting the person, respecting their experience, giving them the deference, understanding they went through a very difficult time. They may truly not remember because it was so hard, but then it was also caring for the people. So Joanne was like, "No, no, you're not going to do that to my people." And if I'm not mistaken, the staffer did get sort of a football player kind of, "If I've offended you in any way, I apologize," kind of apology from the section chief. Because when it came out, it wasn't something that we had done. But I think that was just brought up from, as you deal with the public, as you work with our clients, as you do the research, as you realize the government was wrong, and how can we make it better? If you had a store and you were given thirty days to get out of California, the payment that we sent doesn't even scratch the surface, it really is a goodwill gesture, but recognizing that it's a goodwill gesture.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EK: Are there any others whose contribution that you want to mention, either mention or expand upon?

AG: I mean, I think that you'll eventually connect with him, but the way that Bob Bratt really managed everything. When I think about now what my own SES director has to deal with, and he doesn't deal with the emotions of people. Like when you sit and you think about, okay, he was dealing with the emotions of people in a very stressful and trying situation, and he's got to make sure Department leadership understands what we're doing so that whenever we put in money for passback and when we go to (the Hill) that they're still always giving us what we need in terms of the resources. He's got to deal with the community who he is not of the community. So there was always the side eye to him, like, why are you so interested? And any kinds of darts that could be thrown at him because he was not of the community, and then still establishing those bridges to get people to trust him. And I think that when he said, "I will get back to you," he got back to you. And it wasn't that he called on DeDe or he called on Joanne or he called on anybody to see, he did it himself. And so that model that he did, translates to Joanne. Joanne gives it to us, we take it on to the next generation. Now, some of the next generation under us of servant will pick up on it, and some won't, and that's okay. I'm sure there are people who, "Oh, yeah, I worked on that program, it was okay." Others really still live it, still engage with it, still feel it. I am tickled when I get a phone call from somebody that's asking about, "My mom got a redress payment in 1993, and we just found this paper." Or sometimes it's, "Can you tell me about it?" I've had that phone call. And in it, because Tink Cooper and I have talked about, okay, where do you want me to stop in the line? They have my name for a reason.

I was in San Francisco three years ago, maybe. I took my mother with me, and she went to a museum where there was a JA5 exhibit, and my name was in it. And she's reading and she's like, oh. And then she calls me and I'm in class, and I'm like, okay, we're in California and my mother's calling me, "Mom, I'm in class, what's going on?" "Honey, I'm in a museum and your name is here." I said, "Yes, Mother, I know. I got to go back to class." "Oh, okay." It was the cutest thing, because then she's telling the people, "Oh, that's my daughter." I'm like, okay, really? You're not that old. But that's nice, that makes you feel good to know that what you did twenty years ago still is having an impact, and you're still able to make a difference and show people. My hope would be for those that are experiencing stress with our current government, I won't even say administration, will at some point in time know that we were, and that we can do right by it, that we can do right by it. It may take some time, and it will take a lot of organization, but I don't know that the original organizers thought, in the late '40s... they knew it was wrong, they knew something had to be done. But if they were here to look back and say, "These were the children that I birthed, this is the good that I did." There's a song I remember when my grandfather died, "Let the Service That I've Done Speak For Me," and I think about that with Redress. The service that we did for all facets of the Japanese community only made the rest of the country better. Because we have shown that we can recognize our faults and make an effort to make it better.

EK: Thank you, Angela.

AG: You're welcome.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.