LOS ANGELES – The Japanese American National Museum is deeply saddened by the passing of an extraordinary leader, friend and Chairman of the Board of JANM, the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta. Secretary Mineta was 90 when he died Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at his home in Edgewater, Maryland.
More than 30 years ago, volunteers invested in the vision of a museum that would preserve Japanese American history and American democratic ideals for future generations. This vision was embodied in the life and career of Secretary Mineta. He served on the board of directors from 1988 to 1995 and was chairman of the board of directors from 2010 to 2015. A director since 1996, he was chairman of the board of directors since 2015.
Secretary Mineta was born on November 12, 1931, to Kunisaku and Kane Mineta in San Jose, California. The Mineta family was forcibly removed from their home and incarcerated along with 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry for the duration of the war. The family was first held at Santa Anita, a racetrack and temporary detention center in Los Angeles, and then at Heart Mountain Concentration Camp in northwest Wyoming during World War II.
“Heart Mountain taught me that we must be vigilant about upholding our democratic ideals, not vigilantes. A life in public service has taught me that we must work across the aisle to defend these ideals for everyone,” Secretary Mineta said on Memorial Day 2022 commemorating the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.
Secretary Mineta represented his hometown of San Jose in the House of Representatives for more than 20 years. The first Asian American appointed to a presidential cabinet, he was appointed Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton in 2000 and selected Secretary of Transportation by President George W. Bush in 2001, a position he held until 2006. He was awarded the Presidential Medal. of Freedom in 2006, America’s highest civilian honor, and in 2012 Secretary Mineta received the Distinguished Medal of Honor from JANM.
As JANM looks to the future, the museum will always remember Secretary Mineta, whose accomplishments inspired the Asian American community and uplifted the nation.
“Norm helped steer and elevate JANM to national prominence. His generosity, diplomacy and love for his country helped the Asian American community and other communities of color deal with acts of violence from the aftermath of September 11, 2001 to the alarming rise in hatred anti-Asian. He was a strong advocate for the promotion of American ideals of equality, justice, and freedom for all. Norm’s legacy will never be forgotten,” said Ann Burroughs, President and CEO of JANM.
“Norm always said that everyone had two arms: one to climb the ladder of success and one to descend, choose someone else and pull them behind you,” Burroughs continued. “He was a beacon of inspiration and support for the museum, the nation and the world. Her voice has shaped national and international conversations on social justice, and her light will live on in all of us and inspire generations of leaders.
“We extend our deepest condolences to his family and to all of his many friends and colleagues who had the special gift of friendship and time with Secretary Mineta.”