Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Richard Konda Interview
Narrator: Richard Konda
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Tom Izu
Location: San Jose, California
Date: November 30, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-krichard_2-01-0010

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TI: So after Lowell, after you graduated from high school, what happened next?

RK: So I went to City College of San Francisco for a couple of years, and eventually ended up at Berkeley after a couple years at City College.

TI: And what did you major in at Berkeley?

RK: So I was a political science major, and while I was going to college, both at City College and at Berkeley, I worked -- actually for a relative of mine. And he had a advertising agency on the, as part of his business, but the other part of his business was a warehouse where he actually had a lot of Japan Airlines stuff, like posters and other stuff, and they used to distribute that throughout the United States. So I ended up working there one summer and then ended up working there part time while I was going to college. And in the course of working there, a number of the co-workers were Korean immigrants. And sometimes they would come in with different kinds of problems with their PG&E bill or their telephone bill or whatever, something that they just couldn't figure it out or needed somebody to help them with. So I'd end up sitting there kind of helping them figure out what number to call or how to solve a problem. If I couldn't figure it out, we'd call up the DMV or whatever. And during that time, there was like four or five Korean Americans who kind of came through the warehouse, and I worked with them and they worked with me. It actually was a good experience for me in terms of making some money and then really being exposed to some of the issues that immigrants kind of have to deal with. So that was something I did while I was going to college, and then I graduated from college and I worked full-time at that warehouse for a couple of years before I went to law school.

TI: So it sounds like this was a pretty influential time in terms of dealing with and understanding immigrant rights and some of the challenges immigrants had in terms of navigating the system.

RK: Yeah, I think prior to that, I don't know that I had a concrete idea of really what a person whose English is somewhat limited, who's really not familiar with how things work, how they cope with that. But it became clear to me, just based on my everyday experience with these coworkers, that there are just different things that would come up that they would just, they couldn't figure it out or they needed somebody to kind of help them.

TI: So during this period when you just finished college with a Poli Sci major, did you know what you wanted to do with your life? Was law part of your plan at that point?

RK: It was something I had been thinking about, but I wasn't quite clear if that's something I wanted to really do. So I just kind of worked a little bit, saved some money, and then began the process of applying to law school. And then eventually I did get into law school.

TI: 'Cause I could hear my parents, if I got a Poli Sci degree, the first thing they would say, "Well, what do you do with a Poli Sci degree?"

RK: [Laughs] Right, yeah.

TI: And were your parents like that, too?

RK: Oh, yeah. My dad had the same conversation with me, I mean, he wanted me to become a dentist or something else, it just, it just didn't seem like something I wanted to do. I mean, they, there was an expectation that you need to do something more than just work at this warehouse, and you need to go on from there. So I eventually did go and get into law school.

TI: And so how did you respond when your dad would kind of say, "So you have to do something." "Richard, what are you gonna do with your life?" What was your response to him?

RK: So, well, the thing that was interesting was that the place I was working for actually had offered me a job to kind of work upstairs in the ad agency side. And so I was kind of mulling that over as well, but as it turned out, I was admitted to law school at the same time. So to me, the choice was, well, I should try law school.

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