May 4, 2022

We mourn the passing of Secretary Norm Mineta. Densho Director Tom Ikeda remembers him for his impressive political career, as an important member of the Japanese American community, and as a friend: 

“Not only did Norm befriend and influence the leaders of our country, he was also a beloved member of Japanese American communities across the nation. Whenever he came to Seattle, he came as a helping friend bringing his warm smile, quick wit, and amazing stories. Thank you, Norm, for sharing your life with so many. You will be missed but never forgotten.” 

Ikeda also recalls a story that Norm Mineta shared during his interview for the Densho archives. It illustrates Mineta’s important political standing, and how he used his own experience of injustice to try to make the world a better place for others: 

“When Mineta was U.S. Transportation Secretary, President George W. Bush took a liking to Norm and invited Norm and his wife Deni as guests at Camp David. One night, the President asked about what happened to Japanese Americans during WWII and Norm told him about the mass removal and incarceration, including Norm’s personal story of being taken to the Heart Mountain concentration camp in his Boy Scout uniform. A few months later, right after the terrorists’ attack on 9/11, there were people talking about the need to restrict travel and possibly mass incarcerate Arab Americans in detention centers. During the emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss what to do, this issue came up and the President quickly and firmly said “we want to make sure that what happened to Norm in 1942, doesn’t happen today.”

[Header: Norm Mineta in conversation at a San Jose Landscape Gardeners Association. Courtesy of Japanese American Museum of San Jose.]