Densho Digital Repository
Emi Kuboyama, Office of Redress Administration (ORA) Oral History Project Collection
Title: Robert "Bob" Bratt Interview
Narrator: Robert "Bob" Bratt
Interviewer: Emi Kuboyama
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: August 19, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1020-6

[Editor's note: The narrator has made edits to this text for clarity. It may differ in wording from some parts of the video but not in meaning.]

<Begin Segment 1>

EK: Emi Kuboyama from Stanford University here with Bob Bratt in San Francisco. It is August 19, 2019. Hi, Bob, could you start by stating your name and your ORA role or title?

BB: Bob Bratt. I was the head of the Office of Redress Administration as well as the executive director for the Civil Rights Division.

EK: And could you tell us a little bit about where you were born and raised, and your educational background?

BB: I didn't go far in life. I was born and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, right outside D.C., still live there. I actually live, just moved back to blocks within my childhood home. I went to a local school and local college there, Towson University, which was the number two largest university in the state of Maryland, and a BS degree in management and finance.

EK: Could you tell us about your professional experience prior to starting with the Office of Redress Administration?

BB: So when I was in college, there was a co-op program, so I started working for the government when I was nineteen years old. And then ended up at the Social Security Administration. They ended up paying for my education from junior year on. So I started as a GS-3, which is lower than hardly anybody starts, and worked my way up through the finance staff and through the budget staff. And when I was thirty and a half years old, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to be brought in the SES ranks at the Civil Rights Division as the Executive Officer, executive director there, which is a senior non-lawyer. So quite shockingly, the average SES is forty-seven years old, according to the Office of Personnel Management, so I was a very young Senior Executive in Civil Rights way back then.

EK: Wow, that's pretty impressive.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

EK: So I'm going to move on now to talk about your role with the Office of Redress Administration. Could you talk a little bit about how you became involved with ORA?

BB: It was interesting because it's a little bit personal, a little bit professional. So my boss in the Civil Rights Division was a guy named Brad Reynolds, and Brad Reynolds had quite an interesting dynamic at the time in the Department in the civil rights community because of what the Republican administration was doing at the time. But the most critical thing was Brad Reynolds was very close to the Attorney General at the time, Ed Meese, way back then. And I heard that, through him, one of the places that this legislation that was pending at the time, they didn't have a home for it, and they were looking at various places in Justice because it wouldn't fit anywhere in particular. They were looking over at this grant area, and they were looking over at one of the bureaus for it. And then he mentioned it to me, that Civil Rights was a possibility. Just kind of casually mentioned it. Well, the personal part is, I had a second cousin that was Japanese American, that had been interned, and so I was very familiar with a fair amount of what went on at the time. And also because, you know, in the Civil Rights Division, we had a really good staff, so I had a very good core staff. So what I mentioned to Brad Reynolds, between the two, was, I thought, a personal interest in it. I already knew I had a good team if we had to work on the program, and I said to him, basically, I was interested in letting us run with the legislation and work on the legislation. So that's kind of how I got started, was they just didn't know what to do with it, they, Justice, didn't know what to do with it, and I thought it would be something very interesting and rewarding for myself and for others in the Division to participate in.

EK: So could you walk us through what happened? So at that point, the legislation was still pending, it had not passed?

BB: Correct.

EK: Then what happened?

BB: Well, so then, all of a sudden, it looked like the legislation -- I remember it was, and this was a while ago, but it was five or six months before the actual signing, the bill was signed, but everybody was scurrying for, what do we do for a budget for it, and that was the first question that came up. No one had any money to administer it. So part of the reason, again, they came back and spoke to me almost six or eight months out, before the actual bill was signed was, "Would you put together a budget for it?" And so, with my financial background, and I was the number two Department budget person at one point before I came to Civil Rights, I know how to put together a budget, so all of a sudden I'm useful to the process in that I could actually produce something to be helpful for him.

So the first months of that were reading as much as you could read about background. And you know, the law was based on Personal Justice Denied, so I first got a copy of that and started... it's this thick, it's not something you read in a couple sittings. But just basically trying to do as much research as I could to understand more about what was going on, and acclimated one or two other people that were around me just to let them know. So the early pinnings of it were definitely just driven, because oh my god, we don't have any money to do anything, and the second part of it is, okay, what happens if it actually comes here? Then what are we going to do? So there was really, those were the two thoughts way back when.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

EK: So, could you maybe walk us through what happened, so, from the point that it passed?

BB: Yeah. It passed, and the department then basically said, "You're it, and you're going to go ahead and set it up," which was kind of terrifying in itself. Because there was nothing to learn from, no one had set up a program like this before. There was no model to go to, there were only things that you shouldn't do. And there was a couple at the time, one in particular, that weighed heavily on what I was thinking at the time. And so the first thing I did was, I was looking for people that could be helpful to me in the community. So I picked up the phone and called Aiko Herzig, who was heavily involved in redress, and to try to get the lay of the land with her and see what was, what I could learn from her.

EK: And did you know Aiko beforehand?

BB: No.

EK: No, you just knew her connection.

BB: [Narr. note: I read an article that she had written and learned that she had lived in the DC area.  I called and went over and sat in their living room.  And then all of a sudden, she did the brain dump.  I felt so insignificant. I didn’t know 1/100th or 1/0000th of what she knew about the history.  Aiko laid out a number of issues coming from the various community groups.  There were the politics on the hill, and most of all, a lot of background.  It was very apparent to me that there was much to do and we needed to get it done quickly.]

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

<Begin Segment 4>

EK: So what were your first steps at that point, then? You understood what a big undertaking this was going to be.

BB: Well, the very first thing that I did was, if you go back and look, it was a unique program and it said you had to identify and locate the individuals. So what I ended up doing was literally walking across the street to the National Archives to see their records. I heard they had records, and lo and behold, they had records. [Laughs] And so the first thing was, I felt like this was the first time, I remember when they said, "Yeah, we got 'em here. We made lists up and we've got addresses and we've got people's names." And I'm thinking, oh, my god, this part's done, check that off, we've identified people. But, of course, those addresses were fifty years old, and so the victory lap was short-lived. So there was a couple parts that really, if I had to kind of divide out where I initially approached the program, one was to continue to get smart every chance I could about the history of what happened, and the legislation, and what was the intent of the legislation. Looking at reading the congressional record and all, because that would give you a lot of hints on what people were thinking back then. So there was an education process for me personally that was extensive, more so than almost anything I can think of in my career where I really had to study and learn and read and use my brain, which, at that point, to study and learn. There was a whole component of the community, and finding out who was in the community and who the players were. I learned about JACL at that point, I learned about NCRR at that point, I learned about Aiko and her role, I learned Matsui and Mineta and the Congressmen and what they had done. So there was a whole educational part, and then there was the whole practical part of it was, okay, now what do you do, and how do you staff it, how do you oversee it, how do you ensure there's integrity in there? So it was not just one thing that I was looking at, it was a continuum of learning and reading and understanding and meeting people and trying to get  things going.

So in the very, very beginning, it was, we were working half days, twelve hour days, and trying to understand and all. So it was really balancing between running out here to the West Coast from D.C. and sitting down in different areas and having dinner with people or talking with people, to also going up to the Hill and speaking with the Congressmen also. And then also internally in Justice, I'm going to need forty or fifty or sixty people, where do I put 'em, and how do we hire 'em, who's going to oversee 'em and those type of things. So the very, very first parts of this were extremely difficult to get every ball up in the air. And then the whole time you want to create a decent first impression with people, you don't want to start off by screwing this up, I don't know how else to put it, in any way. So I also kept seeking out advice, and the people I respected most in Justice I would talk with them. Actually, my father was a senior guy in Justice, just retired, and I would bounce ideas off of him. So there were a bunch of people that were help for me. Again, I'm thirty-two years old or whatever it was, thirty-three years old, and still

relatively young for running and setting up the program. So I didn't at any time think I had all the answers to what needed to be done.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

EK: So you mentioned that you were working with a number of people within the Department. Can you talk about who you were working with and who you were bouncing ideas off of?

BB: Well, it was funny, it depended on the issue. But as far as a lot of things, probably Steve Colgate, who was the Assistant Attorney General for Administration, who was also a close personal friend, was my number one go-to person. Steve was a brilliant guy in many things, but he was most brilliant at tactical and political and kind of looking at "how do I approach something?" If I was all the way over onto a very political issue, I would go to the political appointee that was head of the Civil Rights Division, Brad Reynolds, at the time. And he was not the most approachable guy when I first started working for him, but during the last year I worked for him, he was very much so. We went out running together sometimes in the afternoon, I could bounce stuff off him and he would give me the lay of the land on politics and all. So there were others that helped, but those were two critical folks that helped guide me that sat in a bigger place than I sat in as far as dealing with bigger issues than I had dealt with.

EK: So you mentioned political issues, what were some of the political issues that were around at that point?

BB: You know, it's interesting, at that point, I didn't see or feel “politics”. It was only a couple years into the program, I was more sensitized to, that there was. Way back then it was passed by, legislation was passed, so it had bipartisan support from what I remember, everything about it, I can't tell you exactly who voted for it, but there was enough support on both sides of the aisles. Going back to the claims that were adjudicated by the federal government back after World War II, I think it was widely known by everybody, whatever side of the aisle you sit on, that the U.S. government paid five or ten cents on the dollar. So that may have led to a lot of the support for this in the fact that most critically, civil rights were, this was quite an enormous thing that the U.S. did to folks, injustice, maybe? Good words, but...

EK: Were the politics that you were involved with internal within the Department or were they external concerns?

BB: Internally there were no issues, no issues whatsoever. The Department got behind this, the concerns were external. And it was years later, when I saw some of the external ones upfront, but initially it was just... the politics in the Department, once it was decided where this program was going, there was, nobody was bothering me at all.

EK: So were you pretty much given free rein to figure out how to do this?

BB: The good news was, the great news was I had free rein, basically. I had a good reputation in the Department, I had grown up in the Department, they knew me, a number of the key people knew me from my role in finance, my role in budget and all. I got full, pretty much full rein. I can't think of any major thing that was proposed early on that I didn't get agreement upon. There were certain things that needed signoffs, but once I got them, I could do it. The most important thing I learned in the Civil Rights Division, actually applicable to this day in my job here, is when I brought issues for, or approaches for, before I brought 'em to a decision maker, I could tell you how that was going to go because there was consensus already built on where we were headed.

So I worked on the framework and how we’re going to approach everything, especially early on, until I got key people up and working and acclimated in there such as Joanne Chiedi and early on, Paul Suddes and Shirley Lloyd that helped me early on. We later added Tink Cooper. And until we had a number of the key folks that are known today from the end of the program, it was initially a one-man, one-person band. But it was a one-person band that was supported by, and I quickly got very, very much support from the groups in the community early on which was extremely helpful to me. Obviously the Congressmen, Matsui and Mineta, were very helpful to me, and then my bosses already liked me in the Department and were supportive. So it wasn't any huge head wounds for me as far as, I got to go in and battle for this and battle for that and all, and a budgeting process is always challenging, I don't care where you are, what you're looking for, you always ask for a dollar and somebody always wants to say, "I'm going to give you seventy-five cents." I went through that and that whole battle. But generally speaking, no, I mean, there was nothing that was hugely political or any huge obstacles that I faced other than the way that the law was designed and then the act was designed itself, which was you have to identify and locate these individuals. Nobody has to apply for this. This is simply a unique government program. Find me another one just like it, every government program, there's not a government program that doesn't have four thousand applications and forms associated with it, and we weren't going to have one, we couldn't require that, we had to do the work. So that's the challenge, it wasn't that, and I'm not saying it in a negative way, I'm just saying it made a very unique opportunity.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

EK: So given that the impetus was on the department to go out and locate these people, how did that help you determine the best way to structure or organize the office and the processes that were going to be needed to do this?

BB: Well, the number one thing, and this goes back to... the most critical thing was, first of all, the number one thing I remember looking at was the integrity of the payment itself. That was my biggest concern right up front.  ORA never made the news like some other federal programs in a negative way. But it was early on, the focus on making sure that we were giving checks out to who that person was. And so we constantly had discussions, from day one on checks and balances in the system to make sure that the person was, say that they were interned, who they were, and that we're paying the right person. That was, by far, the number one issue. Because if you think about it, if that had gone sideways, the rest of it really doesn't matter. And I started to allude to this earlier, the number one thing that guided me was -- and I can't remember exactly what they did -- it was some housing... HUD had a scandal at the time. It was just before, and I'm going to say it was '86 or '87 there were congressional hearings and I can remember a woman with blond hair, and I can't remember her name. But at the time, there were a couple faces of this HUD scandal, and I kept thinking to myself, oh boy, I don't want to be the face of the DOJ scandal. So that was where I spent, in setting up the office, my biggest focus. There was, outside of that, the second big area which really was the secondary phase of it was, you're going to need a whole ton of people to look at different things, to verify different things, you're going to need a whole operation underneath you. So then how, given that government's not a role model for quickly hiring people, and how you did this, how are you going to make that happen very quickly? And luckily, we had a terrific commercial litigation support partner that was in the Civil Rights Division, and we got them -- I don't think they're in business anymore, Aspen Systems, I think they were bought out by Lockheed, if I'm not mistaken, ten or fifteen years ago. But Aspen Systems and the partnership with them was fantastic. Knew some of the senior people over there, one of my friends actually worked over there, didn't hire them, because one of my friends was there, make sure everyone understands. But just that they were already in a competed contract at the Department of Justice, they were available to us, they had already competed in an IDIQ contract there, and so we could quickly just sign them on. There were negotiated rates, et cetera. And the great news there is that we could have two people on Monday, or we could have ten people on Monday, if we needed them. So that flexibility was critical to us, especially early on in what we were doing there.

But then again, going back to... and the other thing was, before we get back to, the other thing was, every chance the way, which nobody ever saw, this was invisible to everybody from the outside was, I utilized my staff that was in the Civil Rights Division left and right. So the finance guy, our finance guy also doubled as my budget manager for ORA. So everybody was two- hatting the whole time, and that was the beauty of, that was never really seen by anybody was, I had a hundred professionals working for me that could help out at any given time and they did.

So a focus on the integrity of the program, a way to staff it quickly, really came to light. And especially in the early part, until you had full-time permanent people in there, because there were zero when we started, was everyone got to work a little extra.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

EK: So the legislation passed in 1988, you're starting to get contractors in to start working on this.

BB: Fall of '88.

EK: Okay, so that's how quickly you did that. Can you talk a little bit more about what these folks were doing?

BB: Well, initially, the very first thing I was handed was, at the archives, what were these old records. So we had to get 'em, put 'em into a database system.

EK: Are those the camp rosters, or all the WRA records?

BB: Yeah, all the WRA records. And then, believe it or not, some of the groups had compiled lists, too. So I can't remember -- and this is where this goes back, this gets over twenty years -- where you go back, NCRR and JACL were very, both helpful, especially JACL being a national organization. In the beginning, JACL, had a lot of information for us, too. So the very first part of this was basically trying to compile a list of exactly... and verifying the list. So then once you think you've got the list pulled together, which, as you know, going back to now where we ran over budget and we paid a lot more people and they thought that they had a complete list, and they didn't have a complete list, and we kept finding people and verifying that they were there. The second part of it was, okay, you've got the list of people, where are they right now? Where are we mailing that check to? And so then the whole, the focus was not only setting up the database, but working with the state of California, state of Hawaii, number of the key states and asked for their DMV, a run of their DMV, key information. And then we went to federal agencies to go and get, the Social Security Administration to get the run of their information. So going back to the kind of, this is my simple mind was, okay, John Smith -- it wouldn't be "John Smith," but let's just say it was John Smith, and you need to say, okay, we've checked a couple sources. One, is this really a person, were they there, number one, answer gate number one. Gate number two is where do they live right now? And if you go right across the list and DMV says they're here and Social Security Administration says they're here, you have a third or fourth check that says they're here, and by the way, the JACL, they're on their mailing list and they're a member of the JACL and they say they're here, you can go across this thing and you can quickly see that, oh my gosh, even myself could sit there and go, "Ding, ding, ding, you got the right person at the right address." So that was what the majority of what everyone was doing at first was, it was almost like a puzzle you're trying to solve. It was... the picture and the problem was what I just stated. And then, by this time, as we started going through it, we gained Tink and we gained Joanne, and gained some other folks where we'd sit around and go, "Okay, we think we've got 'em all here." And there's probably two or three I'm missing, but that's basically what the early years were basically about was identifying and the verification process, verification/location process.

EK: Was this a computerized database? Was this JARVIS or was this hard copies of documents? BB: Oh, no, we put it into... and I forget, it was probably JARVIS but...

EK: Japanese American Redress Verification Information System or something like that.

BB: Oh, well, see, you even remember the name. I remember it being a big spreadsheet, and I'm sure it was named something along the way.

EK: An electronic spreadsheet or a hard copy?

BB: Electronic. No, it was electronic, and boy, this is way back when, we're much more sophisticated now. [Laughs] There wasn't even the internet back then, hardly, and so we didn't have that resource either. It was good old fashioned, just think about where you could go find information, and then pull it in. And you say, what are all these people doing? Well, they were going in to make sure that... you know, we had certain criteria. No question there was this person, you got the right person, and then there was a questionable one, and then this one's really a problem to look at. So then the other groups of people would be looking at the other buckets of folks that you were going and looking at to see if you got the right people.

EK: So this sounds pretty unique. You were taking government information, cross referencing it with community group information.

BB: Yes. With government records, adding community information on both sides, both on the identification side and on the location verification side. So it was... and again, it may sound like, crazy right now, because you try to find your old boyfriend or girlfriend on... there's five apps you can load in five minutes, and you put in her maiden name and go find her. We didn't have that back then. And plus, I did get questioned. You asked earlier about questions, before I did any payments, I did speak to everybody in Justice, and certainly on the Hill, because folks on the Hill wanted to make sure that we were administering the program, too, their names were on it. I explained to them what we did and how we did it, so there was definitely, that was an area that was a huge amount of concern in what we were doing.

EK: So when you went to the Hill, was that a part of the regular budgeting process, or was that just upfront soon after the legislation and less so after that?

BB: Any time... no, all throughout it. There was, I keep going back to Matsui and Mineta, even Nancy Pelosi was here back in time. Barney Frank, I remember talking to him a number of times way back then. All these folks were trying to help, and especially, probably Congressman Mineta, more so than any one for me personally, not saying anything bad about Congressman Matsui, but Mineta would constantly, he'd call, ask, I would call up his staff, both their staffs were excellent, and they were here to help us. They truly were here to help us in every step of the way, and they did.

EK: Martha Watanabe told me that she was at a JACL annual convention a few weeks ago and Secretary Mineta basically said the same thing about you, that it was a true partnership between his office and you and the staff.

BB: That's nice to hear. He was always gracious. I mean, first of all, this was not an easy thing for any of us to do, for any of us to do and to figure out. And we all wanted to succeed and make sure it was successful. When that happened, it was the right formula, and the right people, right personalities. He's just a wonderful person.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

EK: So why don't we talk a little bit about your work with the community groups? How did you start that relationship and what did that look like in the early years?

BB: Well, it's interesting. In the very first, I would say, year or so, I don't think that we knew what they were getting. [Laughs] I had the sense that they, again, I had a very young crew there, I was young at the time, I mean, first and foremost. The second part of it was, rightfully so, many people in the community, the government wasn't their favorite group of individuals because of the way that, things that have happened to us on multiple fronts. And not that there was a bitterness, but I didn't expect people to embrace us in the beginning, or to the extent they ultimately did was amazing, but especially in the beginning, there was definitely, on their part... and again, I understand that a hundred percent, and I didn't know what I was dealing with at the time either, and the folks there. There was definitely some huge apprehension, and it took a lot of trust and frank dialogue that, between the two, and open and honest communication, which I was always as open as I could be. I can't remember anything that I held back that was significant to folks. And don't ask me specifics, but I know there were times that I had to say no to certain things, it wasn't always yes. And even with that, the folks out there, it took a while for us to get our relationship to where it was after three years into the program. But one of the things I did nonstop, and I did this, and it was probably a little bit of a detriment to my personal life, was in the first year, I was nonstop going back and forth to the West Coast to meet with community groups. I mean, every other week, just about, I'd go out somewhere and talk with somebody. I tried to get myself invited to the JACL meetings, to the NCRR meetings, there were other smaller groups out there, individual groups. I kept Aiko and Jack in the loop along the way.

What ultimately I did is I hired professionals to really take over parts of the program and run those parts of the program and I was the face to the community. Because the more they trusted me and the ORA, I knew the better off we'd be in the long run. And it was a year, year and half, and then all of a sudden I'd come out to an event and they'd have a beer waiting for me whenever we'd go to the event. They knew my eating habits on what I didn't eat or did eat, I mean, well- known, they all knew it, and we all got along. And we all got to know each other and enjoy each other's company. And so that was, to me, I don't know how your other interviews and what other people have said in the community, but to me, the hallmark of the number one thing of why this program was successful had totally to do with the tightness of the groups and us working together with each other.

And you are certainly aware of the staff, and the staff embraced that as well. And I think of Joanne Chiedi, when she started getting involved, and how she could get out there and talk to folks, and she just loved it. Lisa Johnson Vickers did the same and with everyone. And the tie with the community, they would see presents for Christmas, and they knew each other's birthdays and so on, but you certainly know that that was a mainstay of the program. And again, that was unique to the program versus other government programs, I think, too, of anything that's happened, if you look at present-day programs and what goes on right now.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

EK: So how long were you with the program? You were there from '88 to... BB: To '91. I can't remember the exact month. I do remember what happened. EK: Full time on redress?

BB: Full time on redress, until... it's the most infamous story that went down, until a famous House hearing, and it was in the spring, I want to say it was in the spring of '91, March of '91, there was a House Appropriations Hearing on the Department's budget and on redress. And I'm not name dropping when I give this one, given current events, and that was the Deputy Attorney General was testifying and all the heads of litigating Divisions were sitting behind. And I was in the other room talking with a friend of mine, a woman that was a buddy of mine from the budget staff, and we were sitting there chatting. And they came up, a congressman started asking questions about redress, and he was from California, southern part of California, very much not in favor of redress, and started pounding on the Deputy Attorney General about redress, and he couldn't answer the questions. And the head of Civil Rights couldn't answer the questions about redress, and the head of Civil Rights said, "Bob Bratt's in the other room, I'm going to bring him in and let him answer these questions." So they brought me in to the appropriation hearing room and swore me in, and I got up there. And he was just basically making the point of, we shouldn't be paying "Japanese” redress, and that's kind of what he said, and some other things I just think he kind of wanted to get on the record, which clearly the law didn't provide us to do. But again, I think he was.

EK: "Japanese" meaning Japanese nationals, not Japanese Americans.

BB: Nationals, not Japanese Americans, and that was the crux of what I remember him saying. And I know he was just doing these things because the district he was from, found out later, was a very conservative district. So at the end of the hearing, I'm walking out, and the Deputy Attorney General came up to thank me for it, and Civil Rights head at the time came up and thanked me for it. But the head of the Criminal Division came up to talk to me, and the head of the Criminal Division was this guy named Bob Muller. And he said, "You're Bob Bratt?" And I go, "Yes," and he goes, "I've been looking for an executive director for two years now, I can't tell you how many people I interviewed. Would you come down to my office on Monday morning at eight? I want to talk to you about it." I said, "Mr. Muller, I'd love to come join the Criminal Division but I love my job here, I love redress." It's about three and a half years I think I'd been doing it at the time, and, "I love my staff in the Civil Rights Division." And Civil Rights is, was a great Division. So I came down on Monday morning at eight, and he said, "I just finished talking to Bill Barr, and Bill and I decided that you would be an excellent choice to be the next executive director of the Criminal Division." [Laughs] I said, "I don't have any choice in this one, do I?"  He goes, "No, you don't." Okay, I get the drill. I'm not real happy, but I get the drill, I'll do it. But I'm going to bring down three demands for you that I've got to have," anyway, which I won't go into. But the next day I came back and we sat down, and so that was it for me in redress. Did not want to leave, but they really had a significant problem in the Criminal Division, which, eighteen months later we got fixed. It took us eighteen months to get it fixed, and then Dee Dee and Joanne took over and kept going from there.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

EK: So I want to go back to your work with the community groups, and what I think is captured in a lot of photos in the first check presentation ceremonies. Can you talk a little bit about that?

BB: That was interesting. So the first check was really the biggest controversy we had on redress. Because it was, the White House had wanted little to do with it.

EK: Under whose administration at this point?

BB: This was under first Bush. And they didn't want a big deal made out of it, basically is what they were saying. And then we at Justice especially had strong feelings, this is a big deal, this is the first check being presented. So we were shooting for doing this in the Rose Garden, doing a White House ceremony, and the White House just wouldn't entertain it. And that was the push, and that's what the community wanted at the time and all. So we got it to be held at Justice. And even at Justice it was one of those things where I wasn't a hundred percent sure that the Attorney General was available until almost right before the ceremony, and that he was going to come down and participate. So we had a backup plan, we had a plan for him when he was there, and we also had a backup plan in case he wasn't available.

EK: And the Attorney General at that point was?

BB: Richard Thornburgh at that time. So that was the part of it that was the difficult part of it. The personal part of it was my second cousin who was going to receive a check was part of it. Got to be made part of the ceremony which was just unbelievably fantastic. This ceremony came off to everybody that was there. The Attorney General came up at the end and thanked me for that day, but when he left, he said, "That was probably one of the best moments in my entire time I was here at DOJ." I mean, it was unbelievably moving, it was unbelievably... so I give credit to the staff, just a fantastic job there putting this together. The input that we got from everybody on that from the community, it was done in the right taste, the right tone and all. And then after the ceremony at DOJ, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and myself hit the road for a number of key cities, and we went out, and here in San Francisco was one of them, and locally presented checks and all. Not much controversy, but one of the things that was asked was every local representative in any place that we were going to, all of sudden heard that we were going to be there, wanted to get involved, which was very limited, and I think we ended up doing too many of those folks coming in. But other than those two things, I think that, on a national level, had the right tone and taste and emphasis on the local level, people loved it. I can remember the one here, and just mobs of people were, wanting to get in to see it and were very, very touching. And being a part of, especially the local ones, where people were, lot of tears and a lot of, it was truly a unique experience.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

EK: And at this point you were paying the oldest eligible individuals first? BB: Yeah, it was a hundred or a hundred and one.

EK: Right, the cutoff was a pretty high age.

BB: Yeah, it was really high. We had to work our way down as money became available, and luckily it was funded. As you know, we went through the first billion pretty quickly. [Laughs]

EK: Yeah, can you talk about that? The appropriations and how that worked--and annually you had a maximum?

BB: Yeah, we had half a billion... you're testing my knowledge, I'm doing pretty good today for this long...

EK: I know you have this, Bob. [Laughs]

BB: (But there was that, but there was the limitation in a year. But there was also, once we got going, it was really, the amounts of money were less, and it was really hard for somebody to say, no, okay... they wanted to know why you were identifying more people, and the answer was the records weren't complete, the ones that we initially started with.) Then we discovered that the historians were wrong in a number of places, and there were a number of people held at... not anything wrong about historians, but there were a number of people held in different places that we did not know about. So, again, when there was a motivation and people to dig in and all,  there was just a lot of stuff that came to light that we did not know and nobody knew at the time. But the amounts were small enough that luckily... and the reputation, and again, it goes back to the program being administrated in the right place, just think about how hard it would have been to get additional funding if you know x-amount of checks had gone to the wrong person or there was fraud or something. And again, not a peep out of what happened, because we got the right people in our systems, and our checks and balances worked, so therefore when we asked for money it was not that big a deal as far as getting the amount done. The money for the administrative part of it, people would laugh at, that I work with now, because I'm always managing the dollar very carefully. We just managed what we had carefully, we did not have enough money. But that's what, on the administrative side of it, again, was able to use people and just have everybody work a little extra, and that way we got the job done. So we were lucky on both ends, but both ends complemented each other as far as, there was never a funding problem. You never had a big battle, you never had people digging in their heels, or you were paying the wrong people, things just went along fairly well.

EK: So I just want to make sure I understand the funding piece of it. So there was, the legislation passed, created a ten-year program. There was, at that point, money appropriated for its initial year, or for...

BB: Well, there was an authorization, I think the first, I think it was a billion or it was a billion and a quarter if I'm not mistaken, one-point-two-five. And then that's only an authorization. So the way the budget process worked is you have to have an authorization first, and then the money has to be appropriated. So you're only halfway there when you get the authorization. Then it goes into the annual budgeting process and they have to find the money against the mark that they have for the overall budget of that year.

EK: So this was a part of the Department of Justice annual...

BB: Yes, DOJ would ask for the money.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

EK: So you touched upon this a little bit earlier when we talked about how the legislation was created and passed with bipartisan support, yet, today, Washington is very polarized. It's kind of an either/or situation. Do you think something like this could happen today, could a program like this be passed?

BB: That's anyone's guess. It's hard to imagine it would be in today's environment because everyone has kind of gone to their own corners and to extremes. It seems like the stuff that we should all be agreeing upon, like infrastructure improvements... just hitting traffic on the way home tonight, we can't even get there. So personally... but I don't know what motivates people on different levels. So certainly this legislation was unique, it had many, many years of research associated with it. It had a compelling story about, that was right out in front of... there are national parks now, as you know, for the internment centers. It was something that happened, and everyone was aware of it, it has a unique story. I would hope that people come together today, but it's hard to imagine, as we sit here a year before our presidential election, that people could actually pass that in 2019, to me personally.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

EK: So why don't we move on to talk about, your personal reflections about your involvement with the program. What impact did your time working on redress have on you personally?

BB: It had many different things, aspects. The number one was I loved it for a number of things. One is being around people and working with people, sitting down having a beer, whether it's now on Saturday night with my neighbors or way back when with the community. Working with folks in the community, to me, was just beyond rewarding. Getting to know everybody, meeting new people. Couple that with, you know, I was very, very fortunate in Justice the entire time I was a senior manager, which was fifteen years there, I had a tremendous group of people and staff that worked underneath me and worked with me. You've met some of the folks and know them, and I was able to get some of the best and brightest folks early in their career, and some later in their career, to come join me in different endeavors in Justice, whether it was this or when the Attorney General asked me to set up the original USCIS in 1997, and got a really good crew to work there, too. Just was lucky that I knew some good people there. So the people aspect of it was really, really, by far, the most rewarding for me. The adventure of it all and the mental challenges, having to use my brain and think every day, I mean, how many jobs do you have where you come in -- and I always said this was a labor of love -- and it was, how many jobs do you come in every day and you get to really, really think and create to the level that we got to do that then? So it was a unique opportunity, I was in the right spot to get to work on it at the time, for one reason or another. And maybe because I knew a little bit about what they needed to do. But me personally, those two things combined, working with great people and doing a job where I really got to think and try different things, and I wasn't being micromanaged the whole time, was unique.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EK: Well, my understanding is the community leaders feel a strong bond with you and really appreciated the kind of work that you put into this, your heart and soul. And I even heard that you came and spoke at Sox Kitashima's funeral, which I thought was a really nice illustration of, it was work but it was something more than work, it was the personal connection. Can you talk about the relationships like that?

BB: Well, here we are how many years later, thirty years later? And sitting here down today with you, or at Sox's... I've been invited out to different places in Hawaii, down in L.A. different times, by members of the community during different instances. Whenever I've gone to my employer, right now it's a big law firm, and before it was a tech company, and I said I'm going to do something and take time for it, two thousand percent supportive of it when you start explaining it. But I'll do everything I can. They were my friends. My colleagues and my friends back then. And I'll never forget what it meant to me, so I'm not going to sit here now, whether it's Kay Ochi, lives down in San Diego, I'm going to be down in San Diego in the fall, and I'm trying to set up a time to see her. Or, like you mentioned, Sox, or Carole Hayashino, I saw her and Bill Kaneko over in Hawaii last year. Bill Kaneko is a lifelong friend. Bill Kaneko went to law school, and I gave him furniture out of my house, and stopped there and all. And these were friends that I made and there was a bond there and we worked together. That's just because Bob Muller decided I needed a new job, that's the thing that, my friends went away, and I'm not the type of person that turns their back or forgets. I enjoy the folks that I've met.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

EK: What would you say, in hindsight, was your biggest challenge?

BB: The early months and first year, year and a half, were extremely difficult because there was nothing to follow. And as I said, it was the most rewarding, it was that. I'd been married at the time for about five or six years, never was home, that was not helpful, probably I could have been a better husband, but that wasn't helpful, and we were under a lot of stress at that time.

There were times in the first weeks and months that I didn't know if we were going to be able to put it all together. Because as quickly as I can tell you how we put it together, I can also tell you it did not flow at the beginning. There was one problem after another that we ran into. I can't tell you how many times the lawyers in DOJ would say we couldn't do something, and on a particular issue... and again, I'm not faulting the lawyers, because there are some brilliant ones there, but I needed people that were going to help me come up with a business solution, not tell me what the law is on what I was trying to do, and I not all the time got that, so that was a frustration. And the other thing, I was in a race against time, especially in the very beginning, was if I did not get, and we did not get this program moved along, then I would start to get "help." And that's just what I feared the most, is what kind of help we can get. Because I see it happen too many times in Justice or big organizations where you get help where you really don't need it. So it was the beginning parts of this that were extremely sensitive and extremely difficult and extremely stressful. Once we got everything kind of up and flowing, then it was a year and half or two years, between one and two year part, then all of a sudden you could exhale again. But it was the early days that were awful.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

EK: And how about your biggest success?

BB: Biggest success? I was afraid you were going to ask that... there was too many of them. There were many successes that we had. And it's "we." I would say it's getting to work with the staff that I got to work with, this first rate group of people, quality people, and being able to get the folks I got to work and stay and work as hard as they did. That, to me, was the most successful thing I did in that entire time. I mean, I certainly had my relationships in the community as you mentioned, and many different places. But without the machine and the hard work behind it, that wouldn't have mattered if we couldn't deliver stuff.

EK: What would you say is your biggest takeaway from your experience, either personally or professionally?

BB: The biggest takeaway is, I guess it would be for anybody that was working in the government. My biggest takeaway was we created and managed, we created and managed a successful program within the confines of the U.S. government. So you have people telling, in government now, saying, "I can't do this and I can't do that," I tell them to come back and think again. There are ways to approach and manage being a civil servant as a twenty-five year veteran civil servant, there are ways that we learn how to work within the system. And it's not throw up your hands, and it's not some of the things I see happening now in government and all, or point fingers, it's figure out how to make it work. So the takeaway is, within all that, and with all the attorneys telling me, "No, no, no," the staff and us and we figured out how to make it work for everybody.

EK: Well, for the record, you DID have attorneys on the staff who were saying...

BB: Helped.

EK: "We'll figure out."

BB: That's correct. But I'm talking about the ones outside the staff that were always saying no.

EK: Just want to make that clear.

BB: You certainly know that.

EK: So were there any others whose contributions you want to mention or other topics or stories you want to tell?

BB: Well, there's always stories. But we had great stories. I mean, we had great stories of whether it was the names of some of the folks that were uncovered that were always interesting. You certainly remember some of the folks that were uncovered. We had a "Billions," and we had a "Zillions," and we had some really cute names of what people's given name were. We had, that's what came out in all these community stories, there'd be eight thousand unique stories, and you'd have all these cute stories, you'd have romance stories of what happened and all in this camp, all the way down to the horrific story of the one that was out here that I remember. I was sitting with a gentleman in the community, because we did all these workshops and constantly heard this and that, who was in Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed. Went, travelled  across the United States, across Europe, and relocated them back, himself back to Hiroshima. And so he was in Pearl Harbor and he was in Hiroshima the day the bomb was dropped, and that story was one that came out of these workshops. So you just never knew, on any given day, what you would hear. And like I said, it'd be a combination of heartbreaking to funny stories as well.

EK: Thank you Bob.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.