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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Friday, July 4, 2008, we're in Denver at the Japanese American National Museum's conference. And this morning we have Secretary Norman Mineta with us. And I'm doing this differently. We usually do an oral history and I start from the very beginning, but because of time constraints, I'm really gonna focus on redress. And so the first question, I just wanted to find out, was there anything in your early life that led you to politics?

NM: Well, not really. I don't think anyone really at an early age says, "I'm gonna be..." well, other than, I guess, kids saying, "I want to be President of the United States." But I don't think anyone really says, "I want to be mayor of San Jose, California." But being -- and I started in community activities within the Japanese American community through our San Jose Japanese Methodist Church and JACL, and then that sort of expanded into activities in the total majority community. And so those kinds of community activities then led me to the possibility of being appointed to the city council. The first time I... I didn't run for the city council. We had a mayor who was, we had our first directly elected mayor, and that created a vacancy on the city council. So the new mayor and two members of the city council came to me and said, "We've got to fill that vacancy on the city council. Would you consider putting your name in for it?" So I said, "Well, you know, I'm in business with my father and I really should talk to him about this." So anyway, I talked to my dad and he said, "Well, we can make the arrangements between how you and I conduct the business," but he said, "In Japan there's an old adage about, if you were in politics, you're gonna be like the 'nail sticking out of the board.' And you know what happens to that nail? It always gets hammered. Now the question is, are you gonna be able to take that hammering?" And so anyway, I thought about it and talked to a lot of friends, and I finally said, "Okay, I'll put my name in." And so I was appointed to the city council for the two-year unexpired term of the mayor who had vacated that post to become the new mayor. So then in 1969 I then ran for election to stay on the city council.

TI: So I have a question. If, do you think if you were not appointed to that position, would it have ever occurred to you to run for city council?

NM: Well, I had people asking if I would consider doing it, and I was the first non-white on the city council. And so I always thought, "You know, that would really be a difficult task." So even though I had people ask me about it, I always dismissed it. Bu this was an opportunity through an appointment, not election. So you get appointed, and then you do your job, then you can seek election. So in 1969 I ran for the city council post that I had by appointment, but on the brochure I couldn't say "reelect Norm" because I hadn't been elected in the first place, so we used the phrase "retain Norm on the council."

TI: And how supportive was the Japanese American community to your campaign?

NM: Very. I had great support from within the community, and at that point it was probably maybe two percent of the population, three percent, very, very small, but I had great support from the Japanese American community. And so that was also true, by 1970 I'd become vice mayor, and then in 1971, for the reelection for the mayor's post, the mayor decided not to seek reelection. So then that mayor and many people said, "Hey, you've got to run for mayor." Well, I was trying to split my duties between being on the city council and running the business, and it was really taking more and more time. And so I decided to run for mayor in '71. So that, that was probably the most difficult decision I had to make, between a career choice in terms of the insurance business that had been in the family since 1920, and then running for mayor, because that really was gonna take full time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

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.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So describe how you then decided to go for national office to become a congressman. How did that happen?

NM: Purely by accident. In about the third week in January, 1974, quarter to six in the morning on a Sunday, the phone rings. I pick up the phone, "Hello?" "Hey Norm, have you seen the paper?" "Jimmy, it's quarter to six in the morning on Sunday," I said, "of course I haven't seen the paper." He said, "Charlie Gubser is not gonna seek reelection." Charlie Gubser was our member of Congress, had been for twenty-four years. And I said, "That's nice." "No, no, no, you've gotta run." I said, "Jimmy, I announced in September '73 that I was going to seek reelection in '74, we did a big fundraiser in October, Tom Bradley, the mayor of L.A., came up and did a fundraiser for me, and we're on our way for a reelection campaign." "No, no, no, you've got to run for Congress." I said, "Jimmy, go back to sleep, I'm going back to sleep." So I hung up on him and didn't think anything about it. Well, seven o'clock that night the doorbell rings, so I go open the door, and I look at this guy and said, "Mike, what are you doing here?" He said, "I don't know, Jim told me to be here at seven o'clock tonight." "What did he tell you?" He said, "Nothing, he just said, 'Be at Norm's at seven o'clock.'" Well, Jim, unknownst to me, invited twenty people to our house for seven o'clock Sunday night. And all these people come rapping on the door, and they all come flowing in. I'm wondering, "What's going on?" So anyway, Jim had gotten all these people together to come to the house talking about...

TI: I'm sorry, and when you say "Jim," Jim...

NM: Jim Ono was an attorney in San Jose and a close friend of mine, and he just did this on his own.

TI: Okay, so continue the story. So you have all these people...

NM: So anyway, this is 1974, and this seat had been held by the Republicans for, I don't know, forty-eight years or something like that. And the question was, can a Democrat win this congressional seat? And there was the, the Fair Housing Act of 1964 on the ballot statewide, Wilson Riles was a African American who ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction statewide and won. So the question was, if you take some of these maybe six or eight issues that had been on the ballot and sort of researched them, could we see whether or not this 13th Congressional District could be won by a Democrat? And, but in those days, it was before you were with Microsoft and computers weren't even around, so you had to go in and say, okay, Precinct 1337, how did it vote in 1964 on Proposition 14? And you take down the numbers. And you had to go through and recreate this thing over, maybe on eight issues over a twelve-year period. So we had to have lots of people go to the registrar voters to get all this information. Well, that's what we ended up discussing that night. And my protestations about, "No, no, I'm running for mayor," and they're all sitting there organizing, "All right, what other issues should we be taking a look at?" And so, I mean, these people were all enthused about me running for Congress without even me saying, "Yeah, okay, I'd consider doing it." So it took them about five weeks to do this, and they all, we all got together again and they said, "Yeah, there's a chance." And this is during the whole Watergate issue that started bubbling up in '72, '73, and this is February, by this time, February of '74, March. And so I think it was something like, maybe, I don't know, five days before the end of the declaration period, I then declared that I was going to run for Congress. And all the money I raised for mayor's race, I sent that all back to the people saying, "But I'm now going to be running for mayor, so -- I mean, Congress, so if you should feel inclined to do so, please send some money in."

TI: Well, what made you decide to run, finally?

NM: Well, in looking at the figures and talking to family, talking to friends, they just encouraged me to, to do that. And so, but it was one of those things, again, where it's not something that even crossed my mind at some point, that I would even think of running for Congress.

TI: Because it was a pretty risky thing. I mean, the mayor was probably a pretty sure thing for you to be reelected.

NM: Oh, it was. And...

TI: And here you're trying to go after a Republican seat.

NM: And the thing is that there was a very well-known Republican by the name of George Milias, very fine individual, had been a member of the state assembly, his family owned the Milias Hotel in Gilroy at the southern part of the district, and he had been appointed by President Nixon to be the regional head for the Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco. And then from there they moved him back to D.C. as Assistant Secretary of Army for Environmental Affairs. So I mean, he had a long political heritage, and so I knew it was going to be a tough race. But when you look at it, the population was mostly in the San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Los Gatos area, and went down to Gilroy. But Gilroy was also the lesser populated area. So his name recognition was much higher in that part of the district, so the whole question about who do we have to work with down in that area. And I remember one of the finds that we had was a person who used to support George Milias in other races for the state assembly. But on the congressional race, this fellow said, "I'll support you," and he was a very prominent hakujin fellow in Gilroy. And it was really a big boost when this fellow said, "Yeah, I'll support you."

TI: So how much did you win by in this election?

NM: Well, I had to get by the primary first, there were about, oh, eight or nine people in the primary. But I won the primary by, I think it was sixty... sixty-three percentage. And then in the general election, it was something like I won fifty-one percent and George got something like thirty-nine or forty, and there was a [inaudible] and some other candidates in there that made up the balance.

TI: So it was a solid win.

NM: So it was about fifty-one percent.

TI: Okay, that's good. So at the time, you were the first Japanese American elected...

NM: Mainland, mainland.

TI: Mainland. Well --

NM: Because Dan Inouye had gone to Congress in '59.

TI: That's right, in the House, that's right. Mainland Japanese American. And at that point, you were going in, Daniel Inouye was the senator along with Spark.

NM: Patsy Mink was already there.

TI: Okay, Patsy Mink was there.

NM: And Spark, Spark was there as well.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So, I'm going to jump ahead now, and actually switch topics, but I wanted to ask you, when was the first time you heard about the topic of redress for Japanese Americans?

NM: I suppose there had been talk about it... you know, Edison Uno had been talking about redress for quite a while, and there was a lot of conversation about redress. But it wasn't until the Salt Lake City convention of the Japanese American Citizens League in 1978, when the national convention adopted a one-sentence resolution that said that "to undertake a legislative program seeking an apology and redress payment of $25,000 per individual evacuated and interned during World War II," and that was it. And that was adopted at that Salt Lake City convention.

TI: And were you at that convention?

NM: I was at the convention. I did not participate in any of the discussion, and people would say, "Well, what do you think? You think we can get this passed?" And I'd say, "I don't know. I mean, that's a real long shot. I'm not sure we'll ever accomplish this." But I never got into the discussion on the floor of the convention. I wasn't a convention delegate, I was there really more as an observer.

TI: And so what were you thinking? Because you must have thought, "Okay, so this is going to fall into my lap pretty soon." I mean, they're talking about legislative action, you're in Congress so it was going to happen. What are you thinking?

NM: [Pantomimes hanging himself]. And it wasn't until about September, I don't recall when. September/October of '78, the officers of the JACL came back to meet with Senator Inouye, Senator Matsunaga, Congressman Matsui and myself. And Bob had been elected to Congress in '76; this is '78. So when we all assembled, I remember the first thing I said was, "Komatta ne?" which is, "Boy, we're in deep straights here." What do we do with this? And so we had some real good conversations about it, and Senator Inouye said, "You know, we're not gonna get this passed until the American people know what happened. And once they know, then they will talk to their representatives and their senators and they will then get an idea about what went on. But until we get the public knowledgeable about this, we'll get nowhere on this issue." And he said, "There was the Warren Commission about the Kennedy assassination, and those commission reports, the hearings went on for a long time, they were on the news every night, they issued the Warren Commission report, that was on the news a lot, the commission report itself became a bestseller." He says, "That's what we've got to do." And then he was talking about the Kent State killings, and I've forgotten the name of that commission, but he talked about that commission and he said, "Unless we get the hot focus of publicity on evacuation and internment, we're not going to get anywhere." And so Spark Matsunaga said, "Well, I've got this Native Hawaiian Claims Act bill, and maybe we can use that as a basis for this commission." And I had a legislative director, brilliant young kid by the name of Glen Roberts, and his brother, Steve Roberts was a reporter for the New York Times. And Steve's wife is Cokie Roberts with CBS. And so anyway, Glen was sitting in on this meeting, and so he took Sparky's bill on Native Hawaiian Claims and then converted that to what became the Commission on Wartime (Relocation and Internment) of Civilians. And the commission bill passed and the commission was formed with President -- not Truman, Carter appointing the commissioners. And they set out to work on it. The life of the commission under the original bill I believe was one year, and we had to extend it to make it two years. And then I think it was either '81, I think was '81 or maybe '82 when the commission report came back.

TI: And so Norm, I want to go back, and so after the decision was made to pursue the commission path, when you would go back to San Jose, what would people say to you about that decision? Was that a controversial decision?

NM: It wasn't, it was probably more benign. It was probably not so much controversial as it was, "That's nice you're doing it," and that was it. Because people just didn't think it was going to go anywhere, it was a mission impossible. And you had a lot of people who, I mean, core people who were very much in favor of pursuing this action, and so they were all hepped up, but I would say ninety percent could, could care less. And maybe twenty percent were really, "This happened in '42, why are you bringing this up now? Let's let it die, forget it." But that was a small group, maybe not even twenty percent.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So tell me what the hearings did for you. When they started in the various cities, were you able to attend any of them, or what was it like?

NM: I did, and it was just very, very moving. But you know, as we were putting together this commission bill, I wanted to make sure that we had prominent members of the Congress as... you know, if I dropped the bill in, people would say, "Oh, that's self-serving. Mineta's an internee, of course." So I didn't want us to be in the forefront on this thing. So I wanted to make sure that we had judiciary committee members who were going to be, who were going to be considering this bill in committee to be co-sponsors. And so we went through this whole thing very extensively. And then I would call on various people to talk to them on a one-on-one basis about being a co-sponsor. And I went to this one congressman, a fellow by the name of Tom Kindness from Ohio, a member of the judiciary committee. "It's nice to have you here, Norm, what do you have for me?" So I tell him I've got this bill, and it has to do with forming a commission, go back through the whole issue of evacuation and internment. He sort of looked off in the distance and he says, "Yeah, I remember hearing about it. In fact, my old boss somehow was involved in that." I said, "Really?" I said, "What did you do?" He said, "Well, I was in the General Counsel's office at International Paper Company in Ohio. But our Washington, our senior vice president of government affairs was headquartered in Washington, and I think he had something to do with it." I said, "Really?" I said, "What was his name?" And he said, "Karl Bendetsen." And I go, I thought to myself, "Oh, crap. Here's the guy who engineered the evacuation and was the SOB who put us in camp." So I just folded up my papers and I said, "Tom, thank you very much for the time," and I walked out of there. And Glen and I were walking out, and we go, oh man. You talk about doing research and know who you're talking to about stuff, but we, boy, we didn't know a thing about it. But when, as soon as he said, "Karl Bendetsen," I go, oh man, and just folded up my papers and I said, "Thank you, Tom," and walked out of there. I figured, "I'll never get him as a co-sponsor." But we did that; we just went, I just went to member after member. Bob Matsui did the same thing, going to members and getting them to sign up as a co-sponsor of the commission bill.

TI: Well, and an important one was Jim Wright, also. Can you talk about that?

NM: Jim Wright was at that time the majority leader, and -- no, I'm sorry, he was whip at the time. And so I went to ask him and he was a fighter pilot in the South Pacific, and he came home on leave in 1944, and then he heard about the camps and the Japanese Americans in the camps and all that. And he said he thought to himself, "That's not what I was fighting for in the South Pacific," and he said at that time that at some point he wanted to do something to correct that wrong. He said, "That's not right." So when I got elected to Congress, I got elected to the Public Works and Transportation Committee, Jim Wright, congressman from Texas was on the Public Works and Transportation Committee. And we got to talking a lot, and got to be good friends, and then he got elected to go up in the leadership. So on this bill, I went back to him and I said, "Jim, I really need your help." And then he told me about the "Lost Battalion" and how the 442nd/100th had lost a lot of blood to, to get the rescue of the "(Lost) Battalion." He said, "Absolutely, put me on the bill." And I said, "I'm not going to put you on the bill. I need you as the lead sponsor," and he said, "Fine, put me as the lead sponsor." So to have the number three in the Democratic leadership as the lead sponsor on the bill was a big boost. So you'd go and say, "Jim Wright's on this bill," especially with the southern members. So when, after the bill was passed and the commission was formed, and they had these national hearings across the country, I don't know how many hearings they had, maybe twenty, twenty-five.

TI: Yeah, I want to go back to, so after you, you had Jim Wright agree to that, what kind of reaction, how did you feel when you decided to do that? That must have been a really important moment.

NM: Well, it was just great. Jim said he would sign on the bill, so just thanked him profusely, shook his hand, Glen and I walked out of his office, we didn't say a thing. And just kept walking, turned the corner, we got into the elevator, and we got into the elevator and going, "Yes! We got Jim Wright as the sponsor of the bill!" And we were just sitting there inside the elevator by ourselves hugging and thinking, "Jim Wright is on the bill with us." It was really a big moment for us.

TI: Because at that point, did you start getting confidence that this was going to really happen?

NM: Well, it's one of those things you do to take things one step at a time. And so there were 435 members of Congress, you want to get to as many as 218, the majority members, and on the commission bill, I think by the time we dropped it in, I think we probably had 120... before we dropped the bill into the legislative hopper, we probably had 125, 150 co-sponsors on the bill. Because I really wanted to make it with a big bang, and not just, you know, a lot of times you drop a bill in with five co-sponsors or seven, whatever, but this one was something that we really had to make a big impact, so I wanted to make sure we got as many co-sponsors on the bill as possible.

TI: Were there any other key congressmen during that time that played a role, like a Barney Frank?

NM: No, that was long before Barney came on board. So, and then we had a lot of opposition, Dan Lundgren from California and Sam Hall from Texas. I said, "Sam, Jim Wright's on this bill." "So?" "Oh, okay," and walked away.

TI: Now, when you say they opposed, did they actively oppose? Were they doing things to stop it?

NM: Some of them, I've forgotten who it was. Somebody wrote -- I've forgotten who it was now -- but wrote a, we have this mechanism called "Dear Colleague," where you just write a "Dear Colleague" letter and send it to everybody, all 435 members of Congress. And we had someone write a "Dear Colleague," and "There's a bill being circulated about forming a commission, this is a waste of taxpayer money, this happened in '42," on and on and on. And it, I suppose, had some gravitas with somebody, but those, we were looking at trying to get co-sponsors from those who we felt were sympathetic to the possibility of getting them as a co-sponsor on the bill, and there are probably, you know, 150 people you'll never get no matter what you do, so those you just sort of discount. So people like, who write "Dear Colleagues," that appeals to them because it gives them a little more ammunition in their own quiver as to why they're in opposition to the bill.

TI: And meanwhile, everyone else is really focusing on that middle hundred-plus people that they're the ones who will really make the difference.

NM: Right.

TI: So what year was this dropped in the hopper? We're talking about...

NM: Let's see. We did that in, I think, '79. Seventy-eight was the resolution passed by the JACL, '79 we did the research, and then in '80 we got the bill passed. And the commission report came back in '82, and Jodie Bernstein did a tremendous job as chair of that commission. And the general counsel for that commission... oh, shoot. Not Hugh McDermott. He was just tremendous.

TI: I interviewed him, I'm blanking on his name, too.

NM: Yeah, but he was, he was just an amazing guy. But he and Jodie were really the ones who made it happen. And you know, then the final commission report, it came out and said that there was a "gross violation of the constitutional rights of people of Japanese ancestry." And it said that the... that redress, an apology and a redress payment, they recommended $20,000 should be made, and that the reason the evacuation and internment occurred was because of historical racial discrimination, wartime hysteria, and weak political leadership. And so it really, it just, it brought everything together, all the loose ends. And it dealt with the "magic cable" issue, I mean, it just, when people were saying, "Well, what about those 'magic cables'?" then you could hold up the report and say, "Well they studied that issue, and it was a lot of nonsense." And so it really was tremendous.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So you have this time period, so 1982-83, you have this report, the final bill wasn't signed 'til 1988. So what was happening in that time period?

NM: Well, first of all, we had to take the commission report, and Glen again went through that thing I don't know how many times. His wife Kitty told me he'd go to bed with the commission report. Said, "He didn't go to bed with me, he went to bed with the committee report, commission report." And he just poured over that thing and poured over it, and then translated that commission report into legislative language, working with the legislative counsel's office in the House of Representatives, talking to the American Bar Association. I mean, Glen just did a tremendous job in putting that thing together. And so we had the elements of the bill, and so again, we had to line up the co-sponsors, and it went to Jim Wright, and by that time, Jim Wright was the majority leader in the House. And generally the majority leader in the House does not co-sponsor any legislation. And he said, "Norm, this is an exception and I'm going to be associated with this." So he said, "Put me as the lead sponsor." So we then introduced it in that Congress. And then, legislation expires every two years, so in the new Congress, we then had to reintroduce the bill. And so I went to the House parliamentarian, and I said, "I want to put H.R. 442 as the number of this bill, so how do I do that?"

TI: How did you get that idea? That's such a...

NM: Well, you can't reserve a number, but what you have to do is to drop the bill in about the time that the bill will come up and then as they stamp these bills, that'll get the number 442. So I went to the House parliamentarian, and I said, "Charlie, when should I drop this bill in, 'cause I want 442." Told him the significance of the Regimental Combat Team and everything, and I said, "I want to get 442 on this bill." So he said, "Well, wait about ten days, and then I'll tell you when to drop the bill in. And then as it comes through, I'll just hold it back and make sure we get 442." So Charlie Johnson was the House parliamentarian and he's the one who helped me get the number 442 on that bill. And then after that we, it took eight years to get it passed, so every two years I'd have to drop the bill in at the proper time get H.R. 442 in the succeeding Congresses for that legislation.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I know there are a lot of people that, that really worked hard to pass it. Because of time, maybe you could just share one or two stories about some of the people who helped pass the bill.

NM: Oh, man, there are just... you know, one thing about, you know, there are a lot of countries that call themselves democracies, but the thing that makes the democracy of the United States so distinctive from any other in the country -- in the world, is that it requires citizen participation. And so there were just, I mean, this was really a bottoms-up grassroots effort. Here's something that impacted on 123,000 people back in 1942, out of a population of 200 million people. Who cares? Forget it. But yet this thing kept on bubbling up because working at the grassroots level all across the country. And so there were just a lot of people. I remember from Seattle, Mrs. Kinoshita, Cherry Kinoshita, being one of those who was always agitating for citizen groups to get involved in this thing. And frankly, there were some of these groups that, who were also lambasting me for taking the legislative approach. Bill Hohri just ripped me a, ripped me a new one, and he thought I was a sellout. Well, he thought my brother-in-law, Mike Masaoka, was a sellout. That he said, he said, "He's the one who put us in camp." Give me a break. And so, I mean, we were having to swim against the tide, too, within the community. And some of the, frankly, awful things that Bill Hohri said about JACL, Mike Masaoka, George Inagaki, Dr. Tom Yatabe, Mas Sato, all these, and against those of us in the Congress who were pushing the legislative approach, it was not a, it was not a -- even for people like Cherry Kinoshita and people, there was a citizen group in San Jose that was outside some of these other groups, they were having to speak in opposition to what other Nisei groups were doing. But, so it's hard to point out individuals. As we were, after we had passed the bill, and the Senate had passed the bill, and there was some talk about President Reagan vetoing the bill. And there was a fellow by the name of Grant...

TI: Ujifusa.

NM: Ujifusa, and Grant was an editor with the Reader's Digest. And we were talking about this, and I said, "You know, Grant, we're not over the hill yet on this thing." And he said, "Well, you know, Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey is going to be with President Reagan, and he's going to be in the car with him for about an hour. Suppose we brief Governor Kean about this bill and have him talk to President Reagan about it, and not veto the bill?" So I said that would be great, so we pulled all that material together, and Grant went to see Governor Kean and convinced him that in this conversation when he's in the President's car, that he should talk to President Reagan about it, so we did that. Also, remember, when President Reagan was Captain Reagan, he was there when, when, was it Sergeant Masuda, couldn't be buried in his own hometown cemetery. And so Captain Reagan was at the burial of captain, I mean, of Sergeant Masuda even though it wasn't in his hometown grave. Wherever he got buried, Captain Reagan was there. So we had someone else remind the President of that occurrence. And in fact, I think there's a picture of him at that cemetery, or at the funeral service, and they even gave him a picture of that to remind him. But it was really Governor Kean who talked to President Reagan about why he shouldn't veto this bill.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

NM: So then we were all at the Seattle JACL convention in 1988, and we got word that tomorrow morning, President's going to sign the bill. "He's going to sign the bill?" And we're all sitting in Seattle. So everyone makes airplane reservations, and we called the White House and said, "He can't just sign the bill, this has to be a public ceremony. And we'll all fly out and we'll get everyone there." So they said, "Okay, we'll make it a signing ceremony," and they said, "We'll do it at," I don't know, "eleven o'clock in the morning." So everyone was flying, just racing around trying to get reservations on the airplane to get from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C. Everyone was going on the red-eye, and we all get to the White House and we're all bleary eyed, and we're all there watching the ceremony that President Reagan signed the bill. There's a picture of the President signing the bill, and so I was saying to Pat Saiki, I said, "Hey Pat, look at that signature there." Because that was my signature on the bill as Speaker pro tem on what they called the red line copy of the bill that the President signs. Because it was Sparky Matsunaga as President pro tem of the U.S. Senate, me as Speaker pro tem of the U.S. House, and then President Reagan with him signing the bill. And I thought, where else but only in a country like the United States could this, something like this happen?

TI: Oh, that's good.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: I'm going to jump ahead now because we're almost out of time. I'm thinking, later on in your career, you served on President Bush's cabinet, and you were Secretary of Defense -- I mean, Secretary of Transportation during the terrorist attack on 9/11. And I'm curious to know, because you were in a critical role at that time, if, if your work during redress ever played a role in how you thought about how to protect our country after 9/11.

NM: Well, there's no question that right after September 11th they were saying, "Take all these Arab Americans and Muslims and put them in camp." And I'm going, "I don't believe this. What am I hearing?" And so as we were putting together the security measures right after, on September 11th, and aviation security was in the Department of Transportation. And so on September 12th there was a cabinet meeting, and it was with the, the members of the Democratic/Republican leadership from the Congress. And towards the end of the meeting, Congressman David Bonior from Michigan who was the Democratic Whip, said, "Mr. President, we have a very large population of Arab Americans in Michigan, and they're very concerned about what's happening, and they're very concerned about what they're hearing on radio, television, reading in the paper about some of the security measures that might be taken relating to transportation." And the President said, "David, you're absolutely correct. We are also concerned about this, and we want to make sure that what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn't happen today."

And so that was on Wednesday, the next day, September 12th, and so I got back to the DOT and I told my staff about it. So I said, "One of the things we're gonna have to make sure we do is no racial profiling." And so I, by Monday I came out with our "no racial profiling." I never went back to the White House to clear it before issuing the "no racial profiling." But the chief of staff, Andy Card, called and said, "That was a good statement," and said, "You'll have the President's backing on this." Well, that Monday was also the day that the President met with Arab Americans and Muslims at the Muslim, Islamic Studies Center in D.C., and the President asked me to go with him to that. And he told him, he said, "We know who the terrorists are. They're not loyal Arab Americans, they're not faithful followers of the Islamic religion," and so anyway, we proceeded along this line. And in the meantime, Ann Coulter and what's that Malkin... Malkin kind of diatribe coming out of them. So, and then towards the end of September, there was that killing in Phoenix or Tucson, and the, when they apprehended the guy who killed the owner of that gas station mini mart, they said, "Why did you shoot and kill this guy?" He said, "Because he looked like the enemy." Well, he was a Sikh who owned that gasoline station, had a turban and beard. So right after that, the President called the Arab, I mean, the South Asian Indian and Sikh people to the White House and said, "We are going to pursue anybody who commits..." what do you call it?

TI: A hate crime?

NM: Hate crimes, hate crimes. And so then in... I've forgotten when it was, January or February of 2002, I spoke to the largest dinner I've ever spoken to. There's a group in Detroit called ACCESS, (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services). I think that works out to ACCESS. And I spoke to about four thousand people at a dinner at Cobo Hall, convention center in Detroit, on this whole issue of what happens in the post-9/11, and the development of the security measures, and the "no racial profiling" rule. But it was just a stunning audience, great group. And as I said, it's the largest group I've ever spoken to at a dinner, four thousand people there.

TI: And I'm guessing, I have to imagine that they were so appreciative that you were in the position you were making those decisions.

NM: There's the Anti-Defamation League, Arab American Anti-Defamation League, and that night at that ACCESS dinner I got an award from them for the stand that I took from September 11th.

TI: Well, we're out of time. I actually took more than I said I would. This has been an incredible interview. Thank you so much for your time, and I appreciate it.

NM: Thanks, Tom.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.