Political heavyweights gathered in San Jose on Thursday to say goodbye to Norman Mineta, the first Asian American to hold a US cabinet post and former mayor of the city of South Bay.
Former President Bill Clinton, current San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were among those who shared remarks at the memorial service for Mineta, who died May 3 at age 90.
“I’m grateful to have known Norm Mineta,” Clinton said.
Mineta, an American-born son of Japanese immigrants, was taken to an internment camp at the age of 10 during World War II.
“Imagine a young boy, an American citizen, suddenly taken prisoner in his own country for the sole reason that he was Japanese American,” Panetta said.
Both Clinton and Panetta noted that Mineta wouldn’t let that watershed moment define him.
After graduating from San Jose High School and UC Berkeley, Mineta became mayor of San Jose and later a congressman. He then served as cabinet secretary to two presidents of both parties.
“Norm spent his life trying to be a builder, not a breaker, a unifier, not a divider – someone who used his power to strip others, not to gain more power for himself at the expense of others,” Clinton said. .
Earlier this week, Mineta’s remains landed at the airport that bears his name and were transported through his hometown.
“As far as I’m concerned, Norm is not dead,” Panetta said. “He lives on in those who continue to fight for a better America.”