Reminiscing his past at a podium next to his own portrait, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta spoke to an audience of over 100 people who were there to witness the entrance of the artwork, commissioned by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, into the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.
Former Secretary Mineta shared stories of his family and of his experiences in the various positions he served in government, including how he was often confused with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was in attendance.
He spoke mostly of his family, about the struggles they went through in a time of animosity toward Japanese Americans. He remembers seeing his brother crying when his Selective Service status changed from a 1A, “Ready, fit, and able to serve,” to a 4C, “Enemy Alien” after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942. And he remembers his sister, who wanted to be a teacher, being told, “There are no jobs for Japanese American teachers.”
In face of such struggles, Norman Mineta rose in leadership positions from San Jose City Council to mayor of San Jose, to U.S. Congress, and to serving as a Cabinet member for both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, a first for Asian Pacific Americans.
Now, it is only fitting for his accomplishments to be recognized within the halls of the National Portrait Gallery, where his portrait painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler will be part of the New Arrivals exhibition.
The presentation of the portrait also included remarks by Deputy Director of the National Portrait Gallery Carolyn Carr; Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture Richard Kurin; and Acting Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program Konrad Ng. A reception followed, featuring a short documentary on Secretary Mineta by E. Samantha Cheng.
Notable attendees included:
- Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Samantha Cheng, filmmaker
- Johnnetta Cole, Director of the National Museum of African Art
- Eduardo Diaz, Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center
- His Excellency Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan to the United States
- Brent Glass, Director of the National Museum of American History
- Mark Keam of the Virginia House of Delegates from the 35th district
- Dr. Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution
- Yul Kwon, Deputy Chief of Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission
- Gale Awaya McCallum, Executive Director of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation
- Floyd Mori, National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League
- Ruby Moy, Acting Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies
- Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center
- Dr. V. Thanh Nguyen, member of the Vietnamese American Heritage Project and National Portrait Gallery board member
- The Honorable Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
- Dr. Eva Pell, Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian Institution
- Julian Raby, Director of Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- The Honorable Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Michael B. Smith, President of The Washington Center
- Retired Major General Antonio Taguba
- Francey Youngberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Relations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development