SAN JOSE — Danealia “Deni” Mineta, Stuart Mineta and David Mineta tugged on the white sheet unveiling the six-foot bronze statue honoring the late former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. His widow and sons were among several hundred attendees — which included politicians, family, friends and community members — at the Jan. 25 event inside the San Jose Mineta International Airport, which is named after the late Mineta.
“I cannot tell you how much this means to the Mineta family and Steve, you captured his spirit…,” Deni Mineta said of sculptor Steven R. Davis, to the audience.
Davis’ bronze sculpture of Mineta depicts him in a suit, with his hand over his heart while donning a slight smile.
Norman Y. Mineta, a San Jose native, served as the mayor of San Jose from 1971 to 1975, and was the first Asian American mayor of a major United States city. He served in the U.S. cabinet under two presidents, Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton and Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush.
Mineta was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Wyo. during World War II. He passed away May 3, 2022 from “a heart ailment,” according to NPR.
Colleen Wilcox, the Quest Valley Charities chair, thanked her organization’s board for making the statue unveiling possible. Quest Valley Charities is a local Silicon Valley nonprofit that aims “to publicly honor those leaders in Silicon Valley who have made an extraordinary difference in our region,” a statement read.
Carolyn Uchiyama, an attendee, who presented Mineta with a California State Resolution when she worked for a state senator, shared her thoughts on the statue’s unveiling.
“I think it’s great for our community, especially…the Japanese Americans to have an honor bestowed upon one of our fellow citizens,” Uchiyama said.
Politicians shared stories and memories of Mineta’s contributions to the political world.
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said future generations can learn from Mineta’s story of resilience and pushing through adversity. He said he’s excited to bring his own children to see the statue and tell them about Mineta.
“That’s one of the profound lessons we can teach our children — that life isn’t always fair. It can be immensely painful and difficult, but we get to decide what we do with it and what legacy we’re going to leave,” Mahan said.
Susan Ellenberg, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors president, said the statue’s unveiling paid tribute to Mineta’s “commitment to justice, for his integrity, for his compassion.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren shared how former staff and neighbors who attended are interconnected with Mineta. She noted that Mineta was “always a San Jose guy. The pride of San Jose.”
David Mineta thanked airport staff, Davis and Quest Valley Charities, among others for helping to bring the statue to fruition. He added that having the airport named after his father felt as if he was being remembered by “friends” — Japanese American community members and other communities of color. “It’s what made him love his hometown so much,” David Mineta said.
“You can take dad out of San Jose, but you can never take San Jose out of dad,” David Mineta said.
Nichi Bei News staff writer Derek Tahara is a Yonsei or fourth-generation Japanese American born and raised in Sunnyvale, Calif. He earned his B.S. in Journalism at the University of Oregon. He is a lifelong fan of the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants.