Friday, December 26, 2008

Mo Marumoto, a Washington Pioneer who Opened Government's Door to Pacific/Asian Americans

His name is well known in the U.S. but he possibly goes unrecognized in Japan. William H. Marumoto, better known as "Mo". His middle name is Hideo, but it was seldom used I guess. He had an unexpected massive heart attack and passed away in late November at the age of 73.

His funeral service was at the McLean Bible Church (MBC), Virginia. MBC is famous for its online Internet Campus which features live video services with music and message as well as an online community. I came to know the Internet Campus through my Toastmaster friend I met at the Washington Convention a few years ago. Sherrie is her name. She came from Taiwan and works at the National Institute of Health in Bethseda and holds a PhD. She is in the MBC Choir and I saw her singing at the MBC Cultural Diversity Celebration (CDC) program awhile ago.
MBC Diversity Culture
Celebration Choir

She wrote to me recently that she sang for Jean, one of the choir members, Mo Marumoto's wife (really a small world). She reported that it was a two hour Memorial Service. Elaine Caho, Secretary of Labor, as well as Norman Y. Mineta, former Secretary of Transportation, delivered their messages, mentioning how Mo welcomed them when they first arrived in Washington DC as young professionals.

Marumoto received more than 25 national professional awards for his work in higher education, fundraising, direct mail campaigns, events management, and publications. In June 2008, he was honored by President George W. Bush with the Lifetime President's Volunteer Service Award. His staff had estimated that he had contributed more than 40,000 volunteer hours to 35 local, regional and national non-profit organizations over a 50-year period. Mo sat on numerous boards and commissions, including the Board of Trustees of the Japanese American National Museum and Whittier College, of which he was a graduate.

He was very enthusiastic in doing promotions. He was also a member of the Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, the Asian and American Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging. Marumoto is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in Finance. He was named in the spring of 1996 by Avenue Asian Magazine as one of the 500 most influential Asian Americans in the country. He was also named by Asian Weekly as one of the most influential Asian Americans in Washington, D.C. He was the first Asian American to become a member of the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

I found a couple of harsh and sour discrediting notes. First is his Watergate connections because he had an office next to E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, and he worked under H. R. Haldeman, John D. Erlichman and Charles Colson, all of whom did prison time for their roles in the Watergate cover-up scandal that rocked the nation and culminated with the resignation of a disgraced Nixon. Mo, too, was subpoenaed and grilled by the investigation committees but was not indicted. The other negative situation was the "Brown Mafia" charge against him. I'm sure he would relentlessly discard these charges, as he was so proud of his placement records of minorities in senior level government jobs. He attained some records that have never been broken since.

He was a Nisei, born in the Santa Ana area, and he and his family were herded with other Niseis during WWII into stables at the Santa Ana Race Track. He was later relocated by train under the eye of an armed FBI agent, to an internment camp in Gila Bend, AZ, where the family remained until the war ended. Mo wrote: "That was my first and most unforgettable experience with the Federal Government."

Mo graduated from Whittier College and was actively involved in alumini relations at Whittier for 10 years. He also worked in planning and development positions with UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts. Mo moved to D.C. in 1969 as assistant to the Secretary of the Development of Health, Education and Welfare, responsible for recruiting senior executives for the office of Education. In 1970, Mo was appointed a presidential aide responsible for filling cabinet and sub-cabinet positions.

The following is my favorite quote from Mo:

"One of the myths some folks have is an overestimation of their own worth. When you're Presidential Aides such as Jim Baker or Dick Darman, you may expect six-figures. But those folks are the exceptions. Out of 5000 political appointees, probably less than 2% get the six-figure salaries when they leave government."

I read Mo's interview in an Japanese article by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington DC (JCAW) in April this year. He lamented that most Japanese Americans prefer professional jobs such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, and avoid entering politics. He was of the opinion that more Pacific Asian Americans need to show dedicated interest in becoming politicians in the near future, in view of the increasing trends such as 30-40% of UC graduates belong to ethnic groups. Mo has said that the population of Pacific Asian groups is almost 17 million, which is approximately 4-5% of the U.S. population. Yet politically, they were well under-represented - almost one one-hundreth of one percent.

He gave advice to Japanese businessmen coming to Washington and major U.S. municipal cities which stated:
  1. Voluntarily get involved in any non-profit organizations, hopefully in major roles, and show resolute leadership.
  2. Promote Pacific Asian Americans to key and executive positions of the subsidiary company
  3. Think philanthropy as a mission of corporate existence in the local community.

No comments: