Articles, Blog, , ,

Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta

>>Marie Arana: Wonderful
to see you all here. My name is Maria Arana, and
I’m the Literary Director here at the library. Welcome to the 2019 Jonah
Salkoff Eskin Memorial lecture. It’s a special program
in honor of the memory of a boy called Jonah. Welcome to the Eskin family,
to all of you, the Eskins, who are so generous to
make this program possible. Marcia, Barney, and Lee,
welcome to all of you. Thank you for being here, and welcome to all
our young visitors from Washington area schools. So nice to have you here. And welcome, of course,
to the C-SPAN audience that will be watching
this in the future. Who among you has never
been in this library? Okay, quite a few of you. Well, in the event you haven’t
been in this building before, welcome to the world’s
largest library, the greatest and most extensive cultural
institution on the planet. The nation’s very own, your
very own, Library of Congress. It was founded in 1800, not long after the founding
of this country. It was conceived as a place
that would furnish Congress and the American government
with the information needed as it carried out its duties
as representing all of us. Initially, the library was
housed in the US Capitol, which sits right across
the street from here. I hope you saw it
when you arrived. In 1813, the British
army invaded Washington, and the Capitol Building caught
fire, and it was engulfed in flames, and so, all the
library’s books were burned to ashes. Well, ex- President
Thomas Jefferson, who owned the largest collection
of books in the country at the time, almost 7000
volumes sitting in his house, offered to sell his
books the US government to refill the library’s shelves. Congress jumped at that chance, and now you can see
Jefferson’s own books, those original volumes, sitting at the very heart
of this building. Since the arrival of
those books, 6487 of them, to be exact, the library
has grown to house more than 100 million
publications and objects in over 450 languages. The shelves on which these
items sit measure 833 miles. That’s a very long shelf
of books going from say, right where you’re sitting
all the way down the street, across town, down the Beltway, town Route 95 all
the way to Miami. It is the single-most
thorough collection of holdings in the world. So, it’s fitting
that you’re here in these grand American
halls to the story of a very inspiring American. A man whose childhood was robbed
from him at a time of war, and yet, a boy whose
resilience, strength of spirit, and indomitable sense of
justice led him to use that difficult time in his life
to learn what he needed to learn to make sure no one else
suffered what he suffered ever again. His name is Norman Mineta. He was born in San
Jose, California, and he enjoyed 10 years of
a happy childhood before he and the population of 120,000
more Japanese-Americans like him were taken from
their homes and held prisoner in internment camps
around the country. It was because the United
States was at war with Japan, but it had little
to do with them. They were Americans. He took that experience and
turned it into something good. Convinced that he wanted to
make this country a better place for others, he went
into politics. He became the mayor of a city, a congressman representing
his state, a champion for Asian Americans,
a soldier, a leader in one of America’s most innovative
companies, and then, he was chosen by presidents
of different political parties to be members of their cabinets. He became the United States
Secretary of Commerce, and then, the United States
Secretary of Transportation. His story is a lesson to us all. It’s a model of how
to turn adversity into something positive,
something that contributes to the well-being of us all. Here to tell you that
story is the author of a wonderful new book about
Secretary Mineta’s childhood. She is Andrea Warren, and her
book is called Enemy Child. And here to relay some
of his experiences from a personal point of view
is Secretary Mineta himself. We’re very fortunate to
have him with us today. Andrea will give you a brief
description of her book, after which, Monica
Hesse, a writer herself with the Washington Post, and
the author of a wonderful book about children during wartime
called The War Outside will moderate the discussion. Each school represented
here will receive a copy of Andrea’s book
for its library. So, we’re very grateful
to Andrea’s publisher for that gift, and we’re deeply
indebted to the Eskin family for making a special
presentation possible. So, as we head Thanksgiving
week, here’s a story that tells us that we have
much to be thankful for. There are heroes among us who make this country a
better place, a safer place. Please welcome the
Honorable Secretary Mineta and two wonderful writers,
Andrea Warren and Monica Hesse. [ Applause ]>>Andrea Warren:
I’m Andrea Warren, and it’s a real pleasure
to be with you today. Imagine each one of
you that it is 1941, and you are a boy 10 years
old living in the small city of small San Jose in
Northern California where the weather is
beautiful all year round. You love baseball, comic books, and going to the movies
with your friends. You have three older sisters and
an older brother who all dote on you, and you have
parents you love very much. Your father, papa, has a
successful insurance agency, and you live in a
lovely stucco house in San Jose’s, Japan, town. Both of your parents
were born in Japan. You were born in this
country, but like your parents, you’re considered
Japanese-American. Japan is causing trouble in
the South Pacific, but then, Hitler’s causing
trouble in Europe, and all of that is far away. For you, life is
good, until it isn’t. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacks America
bombing its military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Twenty-five hundred American
soldiers and sailors die. Almost as many Americans as
died in the Twin Towers on 9/11. You see papa cry. He loves America. How could the land of his
birth have attacked the land of his heart? The public is outraged
by Pearl Harbor, and America quickly
declares war on Japan. Within days, the US is also
at war with Germany and Italy. World War II has begun. It is a horrible time for you and your family and
your friends. Everyone is instantly suspicious
of Japanese-Americans. The FBI swoops in and arrests
community leaders, teachers, journalists, farmers,
priests, business owners, anyone considered to have
ties to Japan or influence in the Japanese-American
community. These men and women are sent
to prisons far from home. The Japanese-American community
is left without leadership, without anyone to
speak out for them. At school, classmates
glare at you and accuse you of bombing Pearl Harbor. They call you a “Jap”
like it’s a dirty word, and inside, you burn with shame. Every Japanese-American you
know is loyal to America and wants America
to win the war. Your brother Albert wants
to serve in the Army. If you weren’t so
young, you’d enlist, except that now the
government is saying that if you’re
Japanese-American, you can’t serve. There’s widespread fear that
Japan will invade the West Coast of the United States, and a fear
that Japanese Americans like you who live along the
coast will assist them. One-hundred and twenty-five
thousand of this country’s
150,000 Japanese-Americans with close to the Pacific Ocean. You stand out because of your
appearance and your names. You tend to live together in
communities like Japan Town, so you’re easy to find. All of you are now required
to register with authorities. Then the government imposes
an 8 PM to 6 AM curfew. Some people’s bank
accounts are frozen, leaving them unable
to pay their bills. Their businesses are padlocked. Papa’s license to sell
insurance is not renewed. The FBI searches people’s
homes looking for anything that could be useful
to the enemy, should it invade the coast. A garden hoe, a ceremonial
sword, a flashlight. Then you’re forbidden from
moving away, and finally, you learn that you will
be sent to special camps for the duration of the war,
supposedly to protect you from a hostile public, but as
you really know, to be certain that you can’t do anything
to aid the Japanese. You don’t understand what these
camps are or where they are, and being forced from your
homes is very frightening, but you’ve been taught to obey
authority, and most of you agree that you will not resist. You will do whatever will
best help with the war effort. Announcements are posted in
public places telling people that they will be evacuated, often giving them only a
few days’ notice to sell or give away everything. Pets aren’t allowed
to go, and you have to leave your dog behind,
and this breaks your heart. Then you see your strong papa
cry again because he is head of the family and responsible
for taking care of you, and he’s unable to stop
any of this from happening. You try not to burn your
parents with your own fears. And so, you stay silent. On evacuation day, you
wear your best clothes, and you each carry
two suitcases. That’s all you’re allowed. You are also holding your
beloved bat, baseball and glove, and a military policeman
walks up to you and takes away your bat, stating that it could be
used as a weapon. That bat was a gift
from papa and is one of your prized possessions,
and now it’s gone. All along the West Coast,
Japanese-Americans board buses and trains headed to one of the 10 camps the
government has built. As you will learn, these
are primitive camps, all in isolated, inhospitable
places around the country. On the long train journey, you sit quietly doing
what you’re told. Finally, you are to arrive at a place called Heart
Mountain in Wyoming. You are a thousand
miles from home. You look around with shock. The camp is surrounded
by barbed wire, because this is a prison camp. Guards in towers carry
loaded weapons aimed at you. Your family is assigned one room in a poorly constructed barracks
furnished only with iron cots. You have no furniture,
no closet, no kitchen, no bathroom, no privacy. A single light bulb
hangs from the ceiling. You stand in line
for everything. You eat in mess halls, and the
food is bland poorly cooked. Bathrooms offer no privacy,
and this is humiliating, especially for your
mother, who’s very modest. The temperature dips as low as
30 below zero on winter nights. The wind howls constantly,
swirling dust around. As you will learn, summers are
better, but then you must watch out for rattlesnakes and black
widow spiders, and always, there is dust, and the
wind blows and blows. These are not work camps. In fact, there is
little work to do, and people have too much
time on their hands. They are not death camps
like the concentration camps under Hitler, but they are
brutal in their own way. You are the enemy. You are prisoners. You are watched closely. You must do what you are told. So, you go to school, and
you join the boy scouts, and you play baseball. Everyone pitches in to make
the camps more livable, sharing their talents and
skills with each other and working together to
grow crops on the arid land around the camp subsidize
food rations. The harvest is so successful that it’s called the
miracle of Heart Mountain. All in all, you will be away
from San Jose for three years. Some Japanese-Americans
will be away nearly four. By the end, many will be
defeated, broken, but not most, and not you or your family. You have strong parents who
accept their circumstances and make the best of things. They will help you to do this,
as well, and you will hang on to your humanity, but you
will never forget what happened to you. When it’s over, some folks
have nothing to go back to. Their homes have been destroyed. No one will hire them. Your house is okay, and papa
will rebuild his business, but like everyone else, your family struggles
for the next decade. There’s still prejudice
against Japanese Americans, and they are still ashamed that others thought
they could be the enemy. You want to talk about
all this, but no one will. There is a conspiracy
of silence. Back in school, in San
Jose, you work hard, just as you always have. You are well-liked
by other students, and in high school are
elected student body president. After college, you
serve in the Korean War, and then you’re stationed
in Japan, where you connect with your Japanese relatives and
discover a pride in your past. When you return to San Jose, you join your father’s
insurance business. You marry and have two sons. You are active in
community organizations. You serve on the city council
and eventually run for mayor. You win, and at age 40, you become the first
Asian-American elected mayor of a major American city. Then it’s on to Congress. In all, you serve 10
terms, a total of 20 years in the House of Representatives. You serve because you believe that everyone needs
representation when the decisions are made, something Japanese-Americans
did not have. So, you listen and you help. You work long hours to
get all the work done. The day comes when you and
others in Congress organize to seek justice for
the wrongful internment of Japanese Americans
during the war. No one was ever found guilty
of a crime against America, and yet, all of you
still carry the stigma of being considered the enemy. This must change. You want for all
Japanese-Americans an apology and restitution. It takes years. Four times, you introduce
the bill in Congress before it finally
passes and becomes known as the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988. Only then does the
healing begin. But you are done. You serve and two
presidential cabinets, the first Asian-American
appointed to be a cabinet secretary, and
since then, you have continued to work actively for civil
rights and to further the ties between Japan and the US
and for all manner of things that help keep this
country safe and strong. Norman Mineta, you have so
much to teach all of us. You tell us that this is our
country with all its flaws, and we must protect it. You say, and I quote,
“There were good citizens who didn’t rise up to
protest what was happening to their Japanese-American
friends and neighbors in 1942, but if we will speak out when we
someone’s constitutional rights being violated, if
we will act together, then we are strong enough to
withstand any evil, internal or external, that threatens to unravel this beautiful
place that is America. For all of this, let
me say, thank you. [ Applause ]>>Monica Hesse:
This is a beautiful and richly researched book,
and it’s the kind of book that can only come about
someone who’s lived a beautiful and richly lived life. So, thank you to both
of you for being here. We were talking backstage about
how excited we are that most of the audience are middle
schoolers, which Andy and I agree are some
of our favorite people, and you’re going
to have the chance to ask questions
in a little bit. So, please think of smarter
questions then I’m about to ask, but they are going to let
me ask the first questions. Secretary Mineta, you have
been approached many times by writers wanting
to tell your story, and I’m curious what it was
about Andrea that made you want to talk to her, and I’m curious
from Andrea what you said to Secretary Mineta that
what made you passionate about wanting to
tell this story?>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Well, first of all, there had been a number of
approaches about writing a book, writing a — what do you call? Or have a movie made. But I didn’t want to do anything
that from which I would profit. And so, with most
people, I just said no. And Andrea was talking
about a children’s book. And so, as we talked
about it this was a kind of educational tool that
I thought would be very, very useful to young people. Not knowing anything about the
evacuation and the internment of those of Japanese
ancestry during World War II. And then, knowing about
her background as a writer and a researcher, I said,
sure, let’s do the book. And I just was so
pleased with the outcome. And Andrea, even though
we talked a lot about it, she went ahead and did a
lot of research on her own, and it just makes
it a terrific book. It’s sort of like a what I
would call a coffee table book, and yet, it’s geared to, let’s
say fifth to ninth graders, but it’s something that
easily readable for everybody.>>Monica Hesse: What you
remember about approaching him and what you planned to say?>>Andrea Warren: Well, I
knew that I wanted Norman to be the center of the story,
and the first thing I wanted was to write a book about
Japanese-American internment. So, since I read about
history, nonfiction history, but what I do is I always have
a young person at the center of my story, and I
went to Heart Mountain to see the interment center
that’s there on the site of the former Heart Mountain
War Relocation Center, the internment camp, and
it was there that I learned about Norm’s role in, you know,
the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. So, being able to write a book
about somebody who did something that great to give back to the Japanese-American
community is what pulled me in first. So, that was the first thing. The second thing was that
Norm was the perfect age. You know, he’s 10, 11,
and 12 when he was going to this experience, and since
I write for young readers, that made a lot of sense, too. There was the third thing. I love the arc of the story. He made a friend in the camp
who was not a Japanese-American, who was a boy from
Cody, Wyoming. This camp sits near Cody, who is
also a Boy Scout, like Norm was, and they met at a Boy
Scout event in the camp, and later ended up both being
in Congress at the same time, and are dear friends
till this day. And for, as a writer, again,
just that beautiful arc. The fourth thing was a bonus. I didn’t know it when
I started this project. When I approached Norm about doing it is meeting this
very special person who’s become such an important part of
my life and has taught me so many things and has
given me such a sense of not only gratitude
for what he and the other Japanese-Americans
all went through and that they came through
with the way they did, but a lot of faith in this
country that we got through this and we’ll keep going with
the other things we’re challenged by.>>Monica Hesse: Secretary
Mineta, you were very young. You were about the same age
that many of the members of our audience were, and I
wondered how your family talked to you about what was
happening at the time, how your parents
explained what was going on.>>Secretary Norman Mineta:
Well, as Andrea said, my dad loves this country. He came here by himself
when he was 14 years old, and came to love
the United States, and I only saw him
cry three times. Once was on the 7th of December when he couldn’t
understand why the land of his birth was attacking
the land of his heart. The second time was the day
we left on May 29, 1942, left San Jose to go off to
camp, and the third time was when my mother passed away. But in January, the end of
the last week of January 1942, he gathered the family together
in the living room, and he said, “I don’t know what’s going to
happen to your mother and me. We’re not US citizens. We’re prohibited from
becoming US citizens because of the Oriental
Exclusion Act of 1924. And so, but all of you
kids are citizens of the US and always think of 545 North
Fifth Street is your home, because no one can take
that away from you.” But little did he realize
that on February 12th, President Roosevelt would
sign Executive Order 9066, delegating to the Department of War the ability
to evacuate persons. Didn’t say German,
Japanese, or Italian. Just said persons. And so, these big
placards started going up on utility poles and sides of
buildings and said, “Attention. All those of Japanese
ancestry, alien and non-alien.” I was a 10-year-old kid,
and I looked at that sign, I said, what’s a non-alien? And my brother said, and he’s
nine years older than me. He said, “That’s you.” I said, I’m not a non-alien. I’m a citizen. He said, “Well, this instance,
it means the same thing.” Well, why will they
call me a citizen? “Well, maybe some kind of
psychological warfare.” And so, to this day, I
cherish the word citizen, because my own government would
not use it to describe us. Now I don’t know when the
last time and if you stood on a chair, beat your chest,
and said, “I’m a proud non-alien of the United States
of America.” I don’t think you have. And yet, that’s really what
we were subjected to do by our own government. We weren’t even referred
to as citizens.>>Andrea Warren: What
I would add to that is that when you go back and
you research this history, I thought I knew a lot
about American history. There was so much I didn’t
know about this that the kinds of laws that we had to
exclude Asians in this country that would clear back into
the 1800s when there is a lot of concern about it started
with Chinese coming here and taking jobs from
white people. And began a whole series of what
are called the exclusion laws. So, by the time, when Norm’s
father came, he came really at just the right time, because
after that, there was a new law that said Japanese
couldn’t come anymore, because they were
coming in large numbers to work the agricultural
fields along the West Coast. They were part of the gold rush. They help build the
railroads and so forth, and whites were getting
concerned, again, about their jobs. And in California,
they actually said that Japanese-Americans
could not own property. They were not allowed
to, couldn’t be put it into their own names, but
their children were born here as citizens. They wouldn’t allow
the Japanese-Americans, the other Asians
to become citizens. That was another law we had
in this country at that time. But if you’re born
here, you’re a citizen. So, and Norm’s family situation,
his father, when he was ready to buy a house and set up a
business, put it into the name of his daughter, who
was the eldest child, and when she became 21, then
the property passed to her.>>Monica Hesse: There’s a scene
in the book that starts off as sort of funny, and then
it ends up a little scary, and the scene is that you
go sledding as a young boy in Heart Mountain in
the internment camp, and you’re sweating so fast
that you accidentally shoot under the barbed wire
where guards stop you because you’ve accidentally
escaped the camp, and you’re terrified,
and I wonder if you could talk a little bit
about other incidents like that that start off as very
normal American experiences, playing baseball or something,
but that are happening against this backdrop of a
prison and this injustice?>>Secretary Norman Mineta: We
didn’t have snow in San Jose. So, we got to Heart,
Mountain, Wyoming, in November of 1942,
colder than blazes. The wind was blowing, and
here we are from California, light clothing, light
jackets and experiencing snow. I mean, snow is something
you drive to. It’s just something you
find on your doorsteps. And so, somewhere a
bunch of found some — we didn’t have sleighs, and we found these big cardboard
boxes, and we used those. Flattened them out and
used those as our –>>Monica Hesse: As your sleds?>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Sled, thank you. And so, here we are going
around, and all of the sudden, my cardboard box/sled,
instead of going this way, it went this way, and I swooped
under the barbed wire fence. The barbed wire is
probably about this high, and that outside camp
perimeter, and about that time, a military jeep comes by
and picks up the four of us, and we get taken to the jail,
the brig, at Heart Mountain. That was probably how scared,
but I was about more scared about my father coming
to pick me up. And so, he adequately told me
that I shouldn’t do that again, but it was a very,
very scary scene, because the military
jeep happened to come by and patrolled, two of
them, and picked us up and took us to the brig.>>Andrea Warren:
And Eddie thought that they might shoot you.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: That’s right. Eddie Kimara, my
good friend, thought, “Now look what you did to us.”>>Monica Hesse: Andy,
you showed some pictures of young people organizing
baseball teams, and I know that Heart Mountain
and some other camps had, for example, language lessons
or social clubs or choirs, and I wondered if you could
talk a little bit about, in your research, what you
learned about the resilience of the prisoners and
the things that they did to create a semblance
of normal life, even in these horrific
circumstances.>>Andrea Warren: Well,
I think that this is where the parents
get so much credit. They were real concerned about their children
continuing their education. Things like Boy Scouts,
Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, because the loved the
values of those programs. And so, Japanese-American
kids were involved in that. They were involved in music. There were so many things,
and they wanted like to seem as ordinary as it could be,
even though the classrooms, in the beginning,
these kids are sitting, literally, orange crates. They don’t have enough
textbooks. Eventually, people who have
carpentry skills will build desks and chairs, and new
textbooks will come in. The Wyoming Board of Education
actually did a good job in terms of the cooling of
the kids in his camp. That wasn’t true in all
the camps by any means. That was Wyoming who did that. And the resilience of not
only keeping life going, having it — you had chores. Norm had to collect
the coal every day for the little potbellied
stove they had in their room. He helped his mother
with laundry, which was no easy thing. Back home, she had
a washing machine. Here everything had to
be scrubbed in a tub. You’re carrying clothes in a
basket to the laundry center. You stand in line
to get in there. You scrub the clothes. No dryers or anything. Now you take the wet
clothes back through the snow and everything to your
little room and hang it up and try to get to all dry. So, a lot of just basic work
like that, but the fun part, you had a couple movie
theaters there you could go to. There were dances. There were concerts. People have brought musical
instruments with them or ordered them from the
Sears & Roebuck Catalog, or a friend from home
would send them one. And so, you had bands
and orchestras. Music was very important
in the camps. There was flower arranging. You mentioned the
language classes. There were people playing
chess getting together. The kids loved to dance. I mean, they were doing
everything they could to keep people’s spirits up, and
people paid tremendous attention to how they looked,
keeping their clothes clean, keeping them mended, and
the women could buy fabric at the camp store. Nobody had any money. You know, it was
just down to nothing, but things were relatively
cheap, and they would sell the latest
fashions and do their hair. Norm learned to ice skate
while he was at Heart Mountain, because they flooded
the baseball fields. And then you had
to get ice skates, and I’m sure not everybody
can afford to do that, but money was a real issue
for just about everybody. So, you were lucky she had a
few dollars a month to spend on these things, but just
this let’s make life as good as we can under the
circumstances, and I’m just floored by it.>>Secretary Norman Mineta: When
we got to the camp in November of ’42, the schools were not
going to be ready until April. So, the camp elders were really
concerned About wait to we do with the young people? So, they had written to the
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Please come and organize
the troops. So, we had a whole bunch of
troops, about nine or ten troops in our camp, and we’d
have our own jamboree, and our scout leaders would
write to the Boy Scouts in Deaver, Ralston, Powell,
Cody, and say, come on in and say, come on in and join us
in our jamboree, and invariably, they’d write back and say, oh,
no-no, we’re not coming in. There’s barbed wire
all around the camp. There are military guard towers with searchlights
and machine guns. So, we’re not coming in. They’re POWs, and our scout
leaders would write back and say, no, these are not POWs. They’re Boy Scouts of America. They wear the same
uniform you do. They read the same
manual you do. They do after the same
merit badges you do. And so, none of them came in. But then, one day, we got
notice that the Boy Scouts, a Boy Scout troop from
Cody was going to come in. So, they came in, and we
did our knot tying contest, and how a start a
fire without a match, and woodworking contests
and all these things. And then we got paired
off with a kid from Cody to build our pup tent. Well, and Wyoming, it
can rain a lot any time. So, in order to protect
the tent, you have to build
a moat around it. So, this kid and I
built a beautiful moat. And then he said, “you know,
there’s a kid from my troop in that tent below us. He’s a bully, and I
really don’t like him. Would you mind if
we cut the water to exit towards that tent?” well, no skin off my nose. So, I said sure. So, we this beautiful moat, and as luck would have
it, it started raining. And our moat drained
beautifully, went down that way. The tent pegs pulled,
and the tent came down, and the kid in my kid goes,
“Ha-ha-ha, he-he-he, ho-ho-ho.” He kept laughing the whole time,
into the night, and finally said to him, Alan, would
you please shut up so we can get some rest?” Well, that was Alan Simpson.>>Monica Hesse: Please
explain for the young people in the audience who don’t
know who Alan Simpson is.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Well, eventually, Alan Simpson became a US senator
from Wyoming, and I got elected to the House of Representatives
in 1974, and he got elected in 1978. But here we are in 1943
and a pup tent together. And we became the very –>>Monica Hesse: Playing a
prank on the boy downstream.>>Secretary Norman Mineta:
And we became the very best of friends, and to this day, we still vacation
together twice year. We go on trips. We have dinner. I’m on the phone,
probably, with him four or five times a week right now. So, we’re the best of friends. But he, Republican from Wyoming, and I’m a Liberal
Democrat from California. But we’re still the
best of friends.>>Andrea Warren:
And work together on the Civil Liberties Act,
and that’s real interesting. I think you probably could’ve
pulled it off on your own, Norm, but I think Alan
was really helpful.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Oh, very helpful.>>Andrea Warren: If
you want to explain how.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: He was very helpful, because on the Senate
side, he was very helpful in getting cosponsors of
the bill and getting people to vote yes on the HR
442, and it was named 442 because of the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion
that served so well in Europe during World War II.>>Monica Hesse: The 442nd,
for anyone who might not know, was all Japanese-American unit that was very decorated
in the war. I wanted to ask about after the
war, when you’re returning home to a community that had expelled
its Japanese-American citizens, what that reentry was like and what the readjustment
period was like after the war.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Well, we were very fortunate
in San Jose. First of all, the San Jose
Mercury Harold had editorials, at that time, saying because
there were other communities where farms were being
burned and arson, a lot of things were happening. And they editorialized
saying, “These are our friends and neighbors coming home. Please don’t do anything
untowards them.” So, we were very
fortunate in San Jose. Salinas, which is about 70 miles
away, had a National Guard unit that got wiped out in
the Bataan Death March. So, there were intense
feelings and Salinas. So as, Japanese-Americans and
the Eisais, the first generation from Japan, were coming back,
they were being shot at. Their farms were
being arsoned, and so, it was very different
there compared to San Jose where it was very peaceful. And so, we came back in
1946, and yet, by 1949, I had become student
body president of San Jose high school with a
3% Japanese-American population. So, it was very different
than other communities. Fresno, Sacramento went through
some very serious problems, as well.>>Monica Hesse: Andy, I’ve
heard people say about history, is that we’re never really
writing about the past. We’re talking about the future. We’re talking history
repeats itself, and I wonder, as someone who is a
student of it yourself, if you see resonance in
writing about this time period in these experiences
from the 40s, what you think we
should take of them now and what we can learn
going forward.>>Andrea Warren: Well, there’s
no way to not see comparisons. All we have to do is look
at our southern border, everything that’s going
on there in terms of the, we’ll call them nicely, roadblocks we’re putting
up against people. The hatred that has been
expressed over and over against Muslim Americans
since 9/11. Now the Muslim Americans
who live here, they didn’t have
anything to do with 9/11, but they look like the enemy. That’s the very same
kind of thing. And so, there’s this
public distrust, this public hatred,
and we see it. In America, we’ve seen
it over and over again against immigrant
groups coming in here, and we have these stories in our own past unless
we’re native American, and we see the distrust, and we
see the prejudice and the bias. And sometimes it feels
like we really don’t learn, and a story like Norm’s will
remind us that we’ve got to be very, very careful
about our own government, and I think this is one of
the things that’s the hardest and most important
about the internment of the Japanese-Americans. Two-thirds were citizens
because they were born here, but you have to remember
that that other third, because people go, you
know, they weren’t citizens. Well, they weren’t citizens because we would let
them be citizens. Now they’d lived here
many, many years. Norm’s father had
lived here for decades. He was a very loyal American. He loved this country
deeply, and yet, he wasn’t allowed
to become a citizen. So, he didn’t have the
protection of the Constitution, but Norm, it turns out,
didn’t have it either. He should have been protected
by it, and he was not. So, yes, we got this wonderful
Constitution in place, but it doesn’t mean
that in times of war or for whatever reason, that it
won’t be disregarded, and so, this is why I think the
take away here is we have to really watch our
own government. We are this government. It is us, can things can start
getting out of hand fast. And what we’ve got to
do is speak up and speak out when it starts happening
and not enough people, very few people did this
for the Japanese-Americans. Eleanor Roosevelt was
out there doing it. She came to California
and had her picture taken with Japanese-Americans. She wrote in her column
about the Italian-Americans, German-Americans, the
Japanese-Americans. These are our fellow
citizens these are our friends and neighbors, and
let’s not forget that, and maybe she had some
influence but not nearly enough. And people wonder why
the Italian-Americans and the German-Americans didn’t
go into camps in larger numbers, because thousands of them did. You’ve written a book
about this, Monica. You know, you get all the
research and know about that and how those people
were treated. They had the advantage of a
looked more like, you know, what an American was
supposed to look like, and the Japanese-Americans
stood out. And there was this real concern about that invasion
of the West Coast. There actually were
submarines, Japanese submarines, sighted out in the Pacific
Ocean, and you know, there were some incidents,
but nothing, nothing to implicate
Japanese-Americans themselves. So, we have really got
to stay on top of this.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: And, you know, people like my dad were
an immigrant from Japan, but she wanted to do something
to help in the war effort. So, he applied to the
University of Chicago that was running a program for the Army called the ASTP
Army Specialized Training Program, teaching Japanese
to US Army personnel. And so, that’s what my dad
did during World War II. He was allowed to leave camp
to go to Chicago to be part of that program, and he
had asked for my mother and me to leave with him. The Army said no at the time. So, there were a lot of
things that, and as a result of the evaluation and
internment, you know, we were talking about what
happened to us to make sure that it doesn’t happen to
somebody else in the future. And part of that whole
action was to make sure that the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988 was passed. And yet, I was Secretary
of Transportation on 9/11, and keep Muslims off airplanes. Don’t allow Middle
Eastern to fly. And even talk about rounding up
Middle Easterners, putting them in camps, and we were
having a cabinet meeting on Thursday September 13th with
the House and Senate, Democratic and Republican leadership, and
towards the end of that meeting, Congressman David Bonior
from Detroit said there, “Mr. President, we have a very
large Middle Eastern population and Muslim population
in Michigan, and they’re very
concerned about all rhetoric in the electronic press and the
print media about banning travel for Muslims and Middle
Easterners and the talk about rounding them up, and President Bush
said that they would. “You’re absolutely correct. We’re equally concerned about
that rhetoric, and we don’t want to have happen today to Muslims and middle Easterners what
happened to Norm in 1942.” And that morning of 9/11, I had
pulled three people out of ACS, Aviation Civil Security, at the
Federal Aviation Administration, and I was in the bunker
at the White House. So, I said, go over
to my office and work with the Deputy Secretary,
my Chief of Staff, to start putting together
the new regimen for security for the airlines to
go back into the air. So, when I asked them on
Tuesday afternoon how are you guys doing? They said, “Well,
we’re starting it out, but the first word the top of the list is no racial
or ethnic profiling.” And I said, wow. That’s going to be a tough one. And then when the President
said that on Thursday, I called him back and said,
hey, we may have a chance to get this thing through. So, keep it in there. So, then, I talked to the
president on Friday the 14th, because we are about
ready to come out with the new
regulations for security to let the airlines
go back into the air, and the President said,
“Keep it in there.” And so, we did.>>Monica Hesse: I think we
have just a few minutes left, but I could stay
up here all day. I want to give others
a chance, too, though. Are there any questions
from the audience? We have some roving microphones. I see a few hands right
here in the center. If someone with the
microphone wants to find these young ladies.>>Audience Member: Hello,
my name is Fayita Tomlinson, and I have a question
for the author. If you could have, would
you have interviewed a woman and a man and Norman
Mineta together and like combined the book?>>Andrea Warren: I
might have done that. You know, it would
depend on the story. The first thing I wanted
to do was tell the story of Japanese-American internment,
and then, find the right person who story would reveal
that history. And when I visited
Heart Mountain, it was very much Norman Mineta’s
story that stood out for me. But there wasn’t
anything stopping me. In some of my other books,
I’d use multiple characters, and I certainly have used
women, females, girls, and this is just sort of the
way this story came together. You have to be careful
as an author that you don’t defuse
it too much. So, it’s sort of depends on
who your main character is, but Norm had such a rich
story that, as I was reading about him, and then certainly,
as I started spending time with him to interview him, I knew I could tell a more
concentrated story through him, because that’s so much
history to reveal.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Let me first of all congratulate
Fayita for standing up to ask this question,
but more importantly, I want to thank all the
young people who are here, and if I might digress for a
minute to just say that you own to things that no one else owns,
your name and your integrity. Protect both of those. Protect both. [ Applause ] You’ll have short-term, midterm,
long-term goals, and so, I want you to work hard at
whatever it is you’re going to undertake professionally
and career wise, and keep that short-term,
midterm, and long-term goal, but as you’re looking
at the long-term goal, make sure you don’t stumble over
something right in front of you. You’ll have a wonderful,
wonderful career and life in the future, but I do want you to protect your name
and your integrity. There are no shortcuts in life,
and you have to really do things to make sure that you
protect your integrity, because without integrity,
you can’t do anything. People won’t trust you. They won’t respect you, and
whatever you’re going to do in life, you’ve got to
have integrity, trust, and respect to get things done. So, to all of you, thanks
for being here today. Thanks to the Eskin family
for making it possible for all of you to be here today. So, again, please,
protect your integrity for the rest of your life. The other thing I’d like to
say, as you go into your careers and professional areas,
you know, in a free, democratic society,
you have everyone from a well-read citizen to the
person over here who may want to consider running for public
office, but that may be only 1% of the population
that wants to do that. So, there’s a 99% of there. So, I want you to
pursue your career goals. Do as much as you can, but say
to your mayor, county executive, governor, even president of
the United States, you know, I’m a subject matter expert,
and blood like to serve on a board or commission. So, this way, you can
pursue your career goals and still take some time to
sit on a board or commission for local government, state
government, federal government, because we need good people. For so many years, we’ve had
this situation where people who don’t know anything
about us, whatever your circumstance might
be, but they’re making decisions about you and for you, and
you got to be at that table when those decisions
are being made. So, work hard. [ Applause ]>>Monica Hesse:
Just one minute, just before you answer
your question, and if you are interested
in reading more, there are some wonderful memoirs
and biographies of young women and girls who are also interned, and if you have your
teacher track me down at the Washington
Post, I will send you a list of great books to read. Yes?>>Audience Member: Hi,
my name is Mark Turner from St. Stephen
St. Ages school, and you said you
were a Boy Scout. Did you finish — did you
get to Eagle Scout or did –>>Monica Hesse: Oh!>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Never got to it. I got first class, but, unfortunately, I
never got to Eagle.>>Monica Hesse:
Are you a Boy Scout? Stay in it. You’ll get a higher
rank than Norm Mineta.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: That’s right. Keep working at it.>>Audience Member: Hi,
my name is Katie Davis. I was wondering, for the
author, if you had the chance to write another book
about someone else, like George Takei,
would you do it?>>Monica Hesse: That’s for you.>>Andrea Warren: Well,
George Takei has his own book. So.>>Audience Member: Yeah,
like not specifically him. That was an example.>>Andrea Warren: He has
his graphic novel, yes. I have only one other
time revisited a subject a second time. I’ve written two books about
the orphan trains in America. The first book I did somewhat
like Norm’s, where I focused on one character and
told the history and felt like I was leaving so
many stories behind and people were getting
to the point where it get their stories
now or not get them. So, I wrote second book called
We Rode the Orphan Trains. These are all nonfiction,
two stories, and I would never say no. It’s certainly a possibility. I think it’s an incredibly deep
and rich history, and it needs to be taught much more
in our schools, and so, the more books the better.>>Monica Hesse: I
think we have time for maybe two more
questions, and I’m sorry. We’re choosing the young people.>>Audience Member: Hi,
my name is Abby Moon, from St. Stephen
St. Agnes School. For Norman Mineta, I was
wondering, from when you ran for political office to now, you
think you’ve had an influence to have more Asian Americans
run for public office into 2019 than when you started?>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Absolutely. In 1967, we had, in San Jose,
a directly elected mayor for the first time, because
the mayorship had always been rotated among the
members of the council. So, now we had a
directly elected mayor. A member of the city
council ran and became mayor, and that created a vacancy
on the city council. So, I was asked to submit
my name for consideration for that appointment
to fill that vacancy. And so, there were
13 candidates. I interviewed with all
the city council members and was appointed
to fill that vacancy and became the first
non-white to come on the city Council in 1967. And so, one of the things I
said I was going to do was to represent people who
had no representation or who were underrepresented
in the community on the city council, and
that’s a principle I’ve stayed with all my life, whether I was
mayor, a member of Congress, or [coughing] member
of the cabinet, and in private business,
as well. But the important thing is to
try to give the opportunity for as many people to
participate, in order to have that pipeline of people who
would come into either to run for public office or who
are willing to be part of public service without
running for political office, by becoming a member of
a board, or a commission at the state or local level. So, I encourage everyone
to consider doing that. But yes, what I tried to
do since 1967 is to try to encourage young people
to run for political office or to still be in
public service, while still pursuing their own
career and professional goals. So, I encourage you to do that. We need more and more people.>>Monica Hesse: I think
we have one more question. No pressure, but it
should be the best one, since it will be the last.>>Secretary Norman Mineta: The last question is
always the zinger.>>Monica Hesse: Anyone? I see a hand right
in the middle. You want to come
to the microphone?>>Audience Member:
Hi, my name is Sinai, and my question is
for the author. How has this interview
impacted you?>>Andrea Warren: I’m
sorry, what was that?>>Audience Member: How has
this interview impacted you?>>Andrea Warren: Oh, there’s
not an easy answer for that. You’ve listened to Norm. You’ve heard about his story. You know now how he
has lived his life. He used the word integrity, and it’s the hallmark
of Norman Mineta. You know, when I was trying
to find him to interview him, I couldn’t find information
on the Internet on how to contact him. And so, I started contacting
various organizations that had something to do
with Japanese-Americans, anything I can think of, and every time I was getting
responses from people like, “Well, that’s a great idea. Nobody’s been able to get a
book out of Norman Mineta yet. But, no, I really don’t
feel comfortable sharing his information with you,
but if you can find it, I think it would
be a great idea.” But nobody would
ever give it to me. So, it was a real
process that any writer or researcher would
appreciate to finally get to him and then kind of do my own
sales pitch, and so on. Norm doesn’t care
about publicity. You know, I don’t think this
is an easy thing at all for him to be here and talking
about himself. When the question came up about
other Japanese-Americans running for office, Norm has
mentored so many. He was mentored by
Daniel Inouye. So, it’s been something
that’s been passed along and passed along. The incredible Japanese American
community is the other thing that is influence me so much,
and how they pulled together, first of all, to get
the Civil Liberties Act. There were years of coming
together and of raising money for that, and all the things that had happened before
there could be reparations. And it’s the only
time it’s happened in our nation’s history, but it has been an incredibly
enriching experience for me, and I feel very grateful
that I’m the one who got to tell his story in the book. [ Applause ]>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Now before we break, can I do something
of a personal nature. I’d like to have
my wife stand up, because without her I would
have never been able to do this. [ Applause ] She has cajoled, kicked, and
whatever it takes influence me. She’s been so helpful, and so,
she’s been a great teammate for me to be able
to do these things. Thanks, honey.>>Monica Hesse: Thank you
both so much for being here, and thank you all for being such
wonderful listeners and asking such thoughtful questions.>>Secretary Norman
Mineta: Great, thank you. Thank you. [ Applause ]

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

Related Post