Norman Mineta, the first Asian American presidential cabinet secretary, spoke about his public service and Japanese heritage on May 9 at WGBH’s celebration of Asian Pacific American culture.
“Yarn is beautiful on its own … when you put us together, it makes us stronger as a whole,” Mineta said. “That, to me, is what this country is all about.”
Mineta will be featured in the May 20 PBS documentary, “Norman Mineta and his Legacy: An American Story.” He served as the Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration and as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Transportation during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The American born son of Japanese immigrants, Mineta became the first Asian American mayor of a major city, his hometown of San Jose, Calif. As a child, he never forgot about being forced into a U.S. World War II internment camp, and later led the way for an apology from the U.S. government and redress for Japanese Americans.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu said, “We who are active in the community stand on the shoulders on those who come before us … We are starting to push the doors wide open.”
Mineta was a sponsor for the first Asian American Heritage Week in 1972. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.
“The vast diversity of Asian Americans creates a vivid tapestry of life,” said WGBH president and CEO Jon Abbott. “The life of Norman Mineta shows how one person can make a difference.”
A display in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad and Wah Lum Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy performance followed the discussion.
Participants included Bunker Hill Community College President Pam Eddinger; UMass political science professor Paul Watanabe; Mark Wu, Henry L. Stimson Professor at Harvard Law School; WGBH general manager Liz Cheng; and filmmakers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi.
Community partners at the dinner reception included NAAAP Boston, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, the Asian American Commission and the Chinese Historical Society of New England. Valley was provided by the Chicken and Rice Guys, Joyful Garden and Kowloon.
The film will air on May 20 at 9 p.m. on WGBH 2 and May 21 at 7 p.m. on WORLD Channel.
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