During World War II, Norman Mineta and his family were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes into internment camps. Mineta refused to let the experience of this injustice embitter him. Instead, he clung to his belief in America and the ideals of equal justice promised by the Constitution.
After serving in the United States Army, he embarked on a historic political career, smashing through every barrier that existed for Asian Pacific Americans in public life. In 1971, he became Mayor of San Jose, California, the first Asian Pacific American to serve as mayor of a major American city. As a United States Congressman, he was the driving force behind the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for and redressed the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during the war. As Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, he was the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the Cabinet.
It is a measure of the great esteem in which Norman Mineta is held by leaders of both parties that President George W. Bush asked him to stay on as Secretary of Transportation. He is the only Cabinet officer in American history to serve without interruption in consecutive administrations of different parties. As Secretary, he restored Americans' confidence in their transportation system after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and delivered the greatest levels of safety in automotive, rail and air transportation ever recorded.