Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American National Museum Collection
Title: Norman Mineta Interview
Narrator: Norman Mineta
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-mnorman-01-0002

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TI: When you decided to make that choice to go into politics full time, what, what possibility were you hoping for by going into politics? What were you thinking at that point?

NM: Only about what is it I could do as mayor of San Jose. And I think as I look back over the forty years I'd been in public service, one of the things I always tried to do was not to get caught up in this whole thing about, "Where are you gonna be?" "Where are you going?" and looking out into the future as to where you want to go. Because I think a lot of people make a mistake about keeping their sight on where they want to go, and they'll stumble over something right in front of them. And so I've always maintained, work hard at the job you're in, do a good job there. Because then, if you come to a fork in the road, and it's like the great American philosopher Yogi Berra said, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it." But if people are so intent on their goal way over there, that's, that's driving them. It's not a personal decision, and I want to be in control of myself, not let other outside things direct me as to what I'm going to be doing. So I've always maintained: work hard at the job you're at. And so I always figured, just work hard at being mayor. Be a good mayor, and whatever happens in terms of opportunities that pop up or whatever you want to do, you can then do it. If you're mayor and a very difficult task comes up, if you've got creditability and a depth of, reserve of goodwill, then you can sacrifice some of that goodwill to take on this very difficult task. And so I've always felt, you just work hard at the job you're at, don't worry about having to keep your sight on where you're going to go in the future, 'cause that can really, you can stumble over something right in front of you.

TI: That's such a simple yet powerful philosophy. Where did that come from? Do you recall anyone telling you that, or is that something that just evolved over time?

NM: Well, in terms of the business, my dad used to always talk about that. In terms of, he used to say, "Plan your work and work your plan." 'Cause he was always one who tried to make sure that you just don't do things willy-nilly, but that you had to be organized in how you go about doing things. And so his, his basic philosophy to me was always, "Plan your work and work your plan."

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.