July 7, 2008

I am back in Seattle after a whirlwind 5 days in Denver participating at the JANM national conference. There are so many good memories of meeting people, listening to and giving presentations, good conversations in the evenings, and singing in the lobby during the early morning hours.
However, the highlight for me was doing interviews. I had the honor of interviewing former Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta about redress and to see how emotionally moved he was as he described the redress bill being introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives. It was also an opportunity to discuss how his experiences affected him while he was making critical decisions during the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

I interviewed Roy Ebihara who was an 8-year-old boy in Clovis New Mexico who describes being driven away along with 30 other Japanese Americans by state troopers while an angry anti-Japanese mob approached after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He and the others were then taken to the Old Raton Ranch, a little known confinement site where he spent a year before going to Topaz.

I also had a short interview with John Tateishi that focused on his early anti-JACL feelings because of how his father was treated by the JACL during the war, and then his decision to join the JACL because of the possibility of redress.

Senator Inouye talked about the continuous and difficult journey towards the ideals of our democracy and how redress played a role in making our country better. He also discussed his role in seeking an entitlement to fund the redress payments after President Reagan signed the bill.

I was also fortunate to interview Toyo Okumura, a beautiful 92-year-old woman who was born in Gardena, then sent to Santa Anita, Jerome, and Tule Lake, before choosing to go to Japan right after the war with her parents and sibling. During the interview she described stepping off the boat in Japan, and being heavily recruited by the U.S. military for work because of her bilingual abilities.