Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story

Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Pictured: Norman Mineta

Credit: Courtesy of Mineta Legacy Project

Meet the statesman who served as cabinet secretary for Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

Directed by Dianne Fukami and co-produced by Fukami and Debra Nakatomi, Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story, a documentary portrait of the American statesman and trailblazer, premieres on Monday, May 20, 2019 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV. The film includes interviews with the two presidents under whom he served as a cabinet secretary: Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush. Also interviewed is retired Republican Senator Alan Simpson, who formed a lifelong friendship with Mineta when they met as 11-year-olds at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, the U.S. concentration camp where Mineta and his family were incarcerated during World War II.

Norman Mineta is a man of many firsts: the first Asian American mayor of a major city (San Jose, California); the first Japanese American from the mainland to be elected to Congress; and the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet. But beyond these groundbreaking achievements, Mineta personifies the dreams and aspirations of many Americans. A U.S. citizen by birth, he was imprisoned by his own country for his Japanese ancestry, yet he steadfastly remained a patriot, leading a Congressional effort for an apology from the U.S. government and redress for Japanese Americans, 120,000 of whom were imprisoned during the war. That effort finally came to fruition when the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

During his 21 years in Congress, Mineta worked to right other wrongs. Retired Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts speaks in the film of the role Mineta played in endorsing same-sex marriage. A co-author of the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act, Mineta pushed to make public facilities accessible after navigating San Jose in a wheelchair and realizing it was impossible to cross the street. Because of the ADA, streets around the country now have cutouts for wheelchair access.