top of page

For My Friend Norm

The world lost a truly amazing human being this week. On Tuesday May 3, 2022 Norman Y. Mineta passed on from this earthly plane. I will share all the reasons that the world recognizes him as an amazing human but before I go there I want to share who he will always be to me and my family.

Norm, as we called him, was a beloved friend. Our paths crossed many years ago when he married my dear friend Deni. I have known Deni for close to 5 decades and our lives have been intertwined in the most beautiful way. My family and I enjoyed the friendship and love of Norm and Deni and their 4 sons and 11 grandchildren—a blended family full of love, happiness, and generosity. Deni and I go way back even before we invited our husbands Norm and Gene into our hearts. When we married these wonderful men as good fortune would have it they loved each other as well. A real bonus for me and Deni.

When Deni married Norm not only did he come to be a dear friend, the kind that is in that close circle around my heart, but I also gained an impenetrable connection to my most incredible role model and mentor for me personally as an advocate for humanity. I feel truly blessed that over the years our families have celebrated many holidays, birthdays, weddings, and milestones together. My husband and I loved spending time with Norm and Deni, and despite our families moving around we always found ourselves connecting as if no time had passed between visits. Our individual journeys and backgrounds were vastly distinct, yet we shared so many similarities and differences which we accepted and embraced. We learned from one another's cultures with the kind of jocular humor that grows from closeness and love. Our greatest similarity was palpable. Our love for one another.

Norm, lovingly called me Cleopatra, and for many decades he shared his wisdom about navigating the gnarly terrain of racism and bigotry. I will miss that. All of it. To witness his astonishing accomplishments throughout his career gave me pause and inspiration as to what can be accomplished. Our Norm was a loving husband and father and a devoted and loyal friend. In his impressive 10-term service to this country as a California Congressmen and then in the US Cabinet, he served this country during one of the most tumultuous eras we experienced. His service after September 11th helped bring this country back from the devastation we faced. I will never forget the sincere concern that he expressed as he took the time to listen and be concerned about my husband and his location in Washington D.C. near the Pentagon on that fateful day.

My children are devastated right alongside Deni and their children and grandchildren. We’ve lost a family member. Last year when Gene and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony Norm and Deni were there, as always. We didn’t know that it would be the last time we would see him. We hugged and our family was unaware that we were saying goodbye as well as hello as the pandemic had kept us apart. Well, goodbye for now Norm. We will see you on the other side….. Knowing you are there with my "M team" is comforting. I know you will be guiding me from above so say hello to my spiritual team Martin, Maya, Malcolm, Morrison, Mandela, and now you, Mineta. I’ve already received a God wink.

The public Norman Y. Mineta was a man who embodied the epitome of integrity and authenticity as a public servant. His work in aviation and transportation changed the fundamental building blocks of how this country navigates, quite literally. We owe Norm a deep debt of gratitude for everything he did for us and for everything his legacy continues to provide for this country and for the world.

Norm’s life is an incredible story of overcoming adversity, discrimination, and injustice and, despite it all, he had the courage and compassion to transform the world for the better. His “childhood-scarring experiences in an American internment camp”, as the New York Times states, served as a catalyst for his amazing work sponsoring the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and made him a true Advocate for human rights in all of his endeavors.

He co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and lead a multitude of commissions and administrations in both the federal and private sectors. After September 11th, Norm’s composure and trustworthiness have become a shining light even when we recall some of our darkest days. In the reports after the attacks, it was confirmed that in the minutes after the attacks, Norm was with Vice President Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operation Center. He was instrumental in securing the safety of the US by implementing orders to ground all civilian aircraft with decisive authority and composed action while the rest of the world scrambled to find stable ground.

After September 11th, Norm forbade all US airlines from practicing racial profiling; or subjecting Middle Eastern or Muslim passengers to a heightened degree of pre-flight scrutiny—though his orders were violated by almost all of the airlines due to overwhelming uncertainty and fear. He stated that it was illegal for the airlines to discriminate against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin, or religion, and when the airlines undoubtedly violated his orders he remained steadfast as he fought against the blatant discrimination. He showed his intention "absolutely not" to implement racial screenings in reply to the question from Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. He later recalled his decision "was the right thing (and) constitutional", based on his own experience as one of the Japanese-Americans who had "lost the most basic human rights" by being discriminated against and interned during the Pacific War. Throughout his political and private sector career Norm had always championed equal rights and fought against discrimination no matter the situation. He was a true Advocate and Ally for humanity.

Norm was the first in many different fields and areas and accrued an impressive list of achievements. He was the first Asian American to serve as vice mayor and then mayor of a major American city when he was elected to serve the city of San Jose, California in 1967 until 1975. He served nearly 21 years in the House of Representatives, where he was credited with helping to advance hundreds of bills for transportation improvements, economic development, trade, the environment, civil rights, and science and technology projects—many of which continue to shape the future of politics and US history. In 2000 he became the nation’s first Asian American cabinet official when he took the role of Secretary of Commerce. In 2001 Norm was appointed Secretary of Transportation, making him once again the first Asian American to hold the position. When Norm decided to leave office after serving under 2 presidencies and as the fourth person in history to hold office under a Democratic and Republican president, he became the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation in US history. In conjunction with his long list of achievements, Norm had many landmarks and locations dedicated in his honor. San Jose’s airport was renamed “Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport” to honor his role in advancing the US transportation infrastructure. The Mineta Transportation Institute, located at San Jose State University, and portions of California State Highway 85 are also dedicated to Norm’s legacy. Norm received many awards and honors throughout his life including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, The Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement, and the L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation.

Norm was kind, incredibly intelligent, and wonderfully witty. His calm demeanor put people at ease and was a soothing balm for the soul. He was funny and serious, quiet but powerful, impressive and humble, and impossible not to love.

46 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I See You - by Kathy Baker

I see your suffering. I hear your cries, I see you stoically smiling to hide your fear, your anguish. I see the resignation that signifies that no hope remains. Earthquakes are heartquakes. I see yo


bottom of page