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-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: There was a point in time when you went to the floor of Congress and addressed your fellow congressmen about this bill and talked about your family's experience. Do you recall that and what you said?

NM: Sure. Well, the day that this bill was on -- it had gone through the committee, and again going, this congressman, Sam Hall, who was opposed to the bill, and Sam was elected with us in 1974, the same class as I was, and he was in opposition to the bill. Eventually he became the chairman of the subcommittee on the judiciary committee that was going to handle the bill. So I thought, "Oh man, we're never going to get it. This is going to be the graveyard for this bill. Sam will never get this bill out." Well, I kept pressuring him, I said, "Well, at least have hearings on the bill," so he'd have hearings on the bill. But he made it very clear right from his opening statement that the bill wasn't gonna go anywhere. And so... I forgot what year that would have been, but anyway, President Reagan appointed him to a federal district judgeship in Texas. So go, "Oh boy, Sam is no longer the chair of that judiciary committee that's gonna have to handle the bill." And Dan Glickman from Kansas came in as the judiciary subcommittee chairman, and Dan was very helpful in moving the bill forward. But he was still reluctant to put the bill over the, over the top. And then Dan became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, so he gave up that chairmanship. And then Barney Frank from New York became the chairman of that subcommittee, and I was really pleased, he being such a big civil libertarian. So I said, "Hey, Barney, congratulations on becoming chairman. I've got a bill" -- he said, "Yeah, yeah, I know that, H.R. 442." He said, "We'll move it, we'll pass it." And I said, "Oh man, that's great. You gonna have a hearing on it?" "No, no, we don't need a hearing on it." So I thought, "Man, this is great." And then he said, came back and said, "And Norm, there's one thing I've got a hearing on." I even forgot what it was, but said, "I've got to have one hearing," I says, "Fine." So anyway, he had the one hearing, passed it out of committee, Peter Rodino was chair of the full committee, and Don Edwards who was a colleague of mine from San Jose was on the judiciary committee. So anyway, Peter had indicated Rodino, said, "Oh, yeah, yeah." Said, "You get this out of subcommittee, it'll go right out on the full committee." So that's why over the years we had to push on getting the subcommittee team to take action. Well, I knew Sam Hall wasn't going to move it, Dan Glickman was going to move a little more, but with Barney, it was most assuredly going to move forward. So then we got it through subcommittee, full committee, and onto the House floor. Jim Wright, again, by that time was the Speaker. And he said, "Norm," he said, "I see the judiciary committee passed H.R. 442." And they passed it maybe in about June of that year, 1978...

TI: 1980...

NM: Oh, wait. Let's see, the bill was signed 1988, so this would have been in 1987. And so Jim Wright said, "I want that bill on the House floor on the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution." Just thinking about it makes me cry now. And he said, "I want you in the chair. You be Speaker pro tem." So he gave up the chair as Speaker of the House and had me as the Speaker pro tem chairing the house when we took up the bill. And that's a day I'll always remember.

TI: And was it that day that you gave your speech also?

NM: It was. You know, my dad was a, he came to this country by himself, fourteen years old. And I only saw him cry three times. Once was 7th of December, because he couldn't understand why the land of his birth was attacking the land of heart. Seventh of December, first time I ever saw him cry. Second time I saw him cry was March 29, 1942, when we were on the train moving out of San Jose and going to Santa Anita Racetrack, the assembly center we were going to. And I looked up, and the seats were facing each other with my dad, my mother and my sister, sister and brother and me here. And I looked up and saw these tears coming down from my dad. And the third time was in 1956 when my mother passed away. But those were the only three times I ever saw my dad cry, and so being on the floor that day, I talked about my dad and my mother. So, but it still had a long way to go. Because even on the discussion on the floor, we had an amendment to take the payment part of it out.

TI: Before you go into that, what was the reaction from people after that day when they heard you talk about that?

NM: Well, a lot of people told me afterwards that what they had seen changed their mind about the bill, and they were thinking about voting against the bill And Bob Matsui made a great statement, we had a number of people who made great statements on the floor that day. Peter Rodino, the chairman of the committee, there was a Republican congressman from New York... I can picture him -- Ham Fisher, Congressman Ham Fisher from New York who gave a wonderful speech in support of the bill. And so it was, it was a momentous day.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.