A Conversation​ with Norman Mineta

The following is the summary of a session that was part of the 2018 Annual Conference.



  • Moderator: Dianne Fukami, President, Bridge Media; Director/Co-Producer, Mineta Legacy Project
  • Moderator: Debra Nakatomi, President, Nakatomi & Associates; Co-Producer, Mineta Legacy Project
  • Norman Y. Mineta, Vice-Chair, Board of Councilors, U.S.-Japan Council; President & CEO, Mineta & Associates, LLC; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce


Film Screening – An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy
Ms. Debra Nakatomi and Ms. Dianne Fukami introduced the film, which was played during this session.

A Conversation with Norman Mineta
After the film, Mr. Norman Y. Mineta, Vice-Chair, Board of Councilors, U.S.-Japan Council; President and CEO, Mineta & Associates, LLC; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce took the stage to a standing ovation.

The moderators, Ms. Nakatomi and Ms. Fukami, started the question and answer session with Mr. Mineta by asking why he finally agreed to do the documentary. He answered that he was asked to do many things, such as books, but he was not interested because he did not want to appear that he was praising himself. Making the documentary appealed to him because he would have no editing authority, and that made him feel comfortable. The moderators asked what are some takeaway lessons of this midterm election in the U.S. He replied that the U.S. has lost participation by people in community affairs. He explained that the country is more polarized as ever. The people of the House and Senate have poor relationships, and it has not always been like that. The moderators mentioned that there is a new energy around civil engagement, so they asked Mr. Mineta if he feels that there is momentum in civil engagement. He replied that the Democrats got a bigger margin than was predicted in the election recently. Unfortunately, the gridlock will continue because President Trump will be emboldened by this election to be tougher. Mr. Mineta explained that there are so many people that dedicate their lives to making governments work and enhance lives. Then, Mr. Mineta expressed his disappointment of what the President Trump might bring in the future. The moderators asked about the western and Japanese cultural traits that influence Mr. Mineta’s career. He answered the greatest influence was his father. In addition, Mr. Mineta mentioned another issei who influence him when he said that the reason they got evacuated and put into concentration camps during World War 2 was because they had no access to people in political offices. So, the issei went around collecting money from the Japanese community, and he would buy a ticket to the Republican and Democratic Committee dinner and send an issei there to get exposure. Mr. Mineta’s point was that having a representative of the Japanese-American community in office and discussing the issues which the community faced was vital.

The moderators then asked for Mr. Mineta’s advice for young leaders today. Mr. Mineta commended Ms. Inoue in the formation of the USJC and the board members for the leadership they have shown for the promotion of U.S.-Japan relations, and for providing a pipeline for young leaders. He elaborated that the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC has reached out to the Japanese American community to try to engage them in the activities in the embassy. More and More is being done not only to build U.S.-Japan relationships but also developing ways of recruiting young people to come to America.

The moderators asked Mr. Mineta what he would like to share with young people who are trying to enhance their leadership skills. Mr. Mineta emphasized that individuals have two things: a name and integrity; and those must be preserved at all costs. He explained that there are so many people who get into political office and aim for a goal but stumble over something completely avoidable.

The moderators asked what Mr. Mineta hopes people will take away after watching the film. He replied that the film really is not about him; it is about the process and why people work hard to be in a position to provide input where social and political decisions are being made. Mr. Mineta expressed his hope that people who watch the film will understand that networking is important. In addition, he mentioned that it is not so much what he did, but that people can learn from the process of working together.

The moderators reflected on the film making process and asked Mr. Mineta what he hopes his legacy will be. He said, again, that he hopes people understand that they accomplish a lot by working collaboratively with strong integrity.

The session concluded by presenting Mr. Mineta with a birthday cake.


Click here to see the video of the session.