Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, joined She Shares to discuss her experience in public service, her family’s internment experience, and politics during the Trump administration, in a conversation moderated by Dewey Square Group’s Karen Breslau. 

Below are excerpts from the Sacramento Bee:

Q: You’ve been more open about talking about your and your parents’ experiences with Japanese American internment camps. What inspired you to talk openly about this subject?

A: You’re right, I haven’t been very open about this previously. My parents were American citizens. I was born in an internment camp, but my parents never talked to me about this at all, and growing up, it didn’t impact me at all. I had an ordinary American childhood. I think my parents didn’t want to burden me with that experience, they just wanted me to move forward and reach for the stars.

I would hear conversations sometimes about someone they knew in camp was in Chicago or whatever, so I sort of knew that it happened, but I didn’t experience their emotions at all. But when I went to college at Berkeley, I met people who were very affected by the internment, or else their parents were and they talked about it openly. Most of the people who were sent to camp were Americans. And you think about that, how did this wonderful country do that? I think that I started realizing, “this is terrible,” and I started asking my parents about it, started having conversations about it. … And when the story was told, the emotions came out. It was unbelievable.

Q: As the United States becomes more and more polarized, what do you try to keep in mind when trying to make progress in politics?

A: Even now, especially now we need to remember – we are not a stagnant society, we are a growing society. I think an underdeveloped skill in politics and in the world right now is listening. As citizens of the United States we have to interact with the rest of the world and work on domestic policy; I think we’re strongest together.

We need to have everyone bring their stories and history to the table, and listen to each other to help our society move forward. We’re not separate anymore, and listening helps us unite. That’s the way that I live – I have friends on the other side of the aisle and we talk about our kids, where we go on vacation, all these kinds of things. You have to talk with each other to build some trust, and that’s the best way to make progress. You can still disagree with them strongly, but you have to still hear and think about what they’re telling you. By listening you can find little areas where maybe we’re not so different.

She Shares, launched in March 2012, is a 501(c)3 in partnership with the California Center for Civic Participation. Presented by the Dewey Square Group, Lucas Public Affairs, Skelton Strategies, and Thomas Law Group, She Shares is a unique conversation series featuring trailblazing women leaders who have created a lasting impact for women in California and beyond.

Each conversation is a candid and unrehearsed exchange moderated by Dewey Square Group’s Karen Breslau, an award-winning former correspondent for Newsweek. She Shares events provide an opportunity for business and cultural leaders, public figures, elected officials and other professionals to network and to be inspired by the personal journey of the keynote speaker. It also provides an opportunity for the next generation of women leaders to be mentored by accomplished professionals.