(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on August 24, 2011.)
In the run-up to the Heart Mountain opening, former Sen. Alan Simpson said some embarrassingly good things about me and my role in redress to a Wyoming newspaper.
This was all very nice, but on the Senate floor in the spring of 1988, Simpson voted for an amendment offered by Sen. Jesse Helms to strip all of the money out of our bill. Had that amendment passed, and it had more support than anyone suspected, redress would have meant nothing. Simpson later voted for the final bill with the money in it.
The only real Senate redress hero is the now forgotten Sen. Spark Matsunaga (1916-1990), who after three years of intense work, nailed down 71 of the 72 co-sponsors of the Senate bill—an achievement celebrated by Sen. Dan Inouye in a floor speech on the day of passage. The 72nd co-sponsor was Alan Simpson, whose assent was obtained by someone who was not a member of Congress.
Japanese Americans should remember what Spark Matsunaga did for our community and our place in American history. That great and gentle man should not be someone forgotten among us nor among scholars of redress to come.
JACL-LEC (Legislative Education Committee) Strategy Chair, 1983-93