SAN JOSE, Calif. - More than 800 people, including former President Bill Clinton, paid their respects to San Jose's native son, Norman Mineta, at a public memorial service Thursday morning at San Jose Civic.
The service touched on Mineta's outstanding career in politics, his commitment to uplifting those around him, and standing up against injustice. Sam Liccardo, the mayor of San Jose, declared that June 16 will now be known as Norman Mineta Day in San Jose, Mineta's hometown and the city where he once served as mayor.
"Our community knew him not as ‘Mr. Mayor,’ ‘Mr. Secretary,' ‘Mr. Congressman’, but simply as Norm," Liccardo said on stage at the memorial.
Described by close friends and colleagues as the most humble man in politics, Norman Mineta lived his 90 years "to the fullest," as former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said.
At his memorial service, San Francisco's former mayor Willie Brown described Mineta as his mentor and political inspiration.
"I knew Norm Mineta was different than any politician you would ever meet," Brown said.
Former president Bill Clinton said he was grateful for Mineta's service as Secretary of Commerce, the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet. He added that Mineta served as transportation secretary under George W. Bush.
Mineta was deeply religious and committed to the United Methodist Church.
"When I found out that he was running for mayor, I said that's the guy, that's the guy the Japanese community needs to lead us," Arthur Yamasaki, a retired dentist and former Sunday school student of Mineta's from long ago, said as he entered the memorial service.
Panetta recalled Mineta's heroism on the day of 9-11, when, as transportation secretary, Mineta grounded all airlines.
"Norm made some very tough decisions that day for our country," Panetta said. "But the decisions he made saved lives."
A man whose family suffered the injustice of incarceration along with other Japanese Americans during World War II, Mineta dedicated his life to fighting for a democracy that serves everyone.
"None of this works if we're not looking out for each other," Stuart Mineta, one of Norman Mineta's four sons, said. "That's something dad taught us."
The Mineta family invites the public to visit one of four organizations that were important to Norman Mineta and make a donation in his memory.
Those organizations are the Mineta Legacy Project, Japanese American National Museum, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, and Mineta Transportation Institute.
To learn more about each organization and to make a donation, visit this link.