FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 27, 2012
Chris Komai - firstname.lastname@example.org - 213-830-5648
MUSEUM TO PRESENT HIGHEST HONOR TO FORMER SECRETARY NORMAN MINETA
Presentation Part of 2012 Gala Dinner Set for Saturday, May 5, at J.W. Marriott Hotel
The Japanese American National Museum will present former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta with the institution’s Distinguished Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service at its 2012 Annual Gala Dinner and Silent Auction set for Saturday, May 5, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel at LA LIVE. The dinner’s theme is "Transforming a Forgotten Story", highlighting the evolution of the Japanese American World War II story from almost forgotten to being shared internationally today.
When Norman Mineta was only 10 years old, the United States was brought into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The youngest son of Japanese immigrants, Norm and his family, like thousands of Japanese Americans, were forced by the U.S. government to leave their home in San Jose and were imprisoned in a concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. When the war ended, the Mineta family returned to San Jose. Norm went to college, did a stint in the Army and then joined the family insurance business.
Encouraged by others to get involved civically, Norm became a local city councilman and then the first Japanese American mayor of a major mainland city. In 1974, he won election to Congress, where he would serve for 20 years. In his tenure, he was one of the leaders in the fight to win redress for Japanese Americans for their World War II forced removal by the government. He left Congress in 1995, but was brought back into public service by President Clinton, who nominated him as Secretary of Commerce in 2000, the first Asian American to serve in the Cabinet.
Set to retire to the private sector, Secretary Mineta was asked by incoming President George W. Bush to become the new Secretary of Transportation. Secretary Mineta played a crucial role on September 11, 2001, ordering every plane in U.S. air space grounded after the terrorist attacks. He also was a key figure in resisting calls for racial profiling against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, reminiscent of the government’s attitude toward Japanese Americans during World War II.
The National Museum’s presentation of its Distinguished Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service to Secretary Mineta marks only the fourth time this award has been given. The other three recipients are the late Senator Spark Matsunaga, Senator Daniel K. Inouye and the late Akio Morita, co-founder of the Sony Corp.
The dinner theme, "Transforming a Forgotten Story", reflects on the Japanese American World War II experience and how it was not discussed, even by those who lived through it. This story was revived decades later when the children and grandchildren of those directly impacted by the government’s actions wanted to know what had happened to their families. Individuals like Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who was a young girl during the war, changed how people learned about the story by writing her autobiographical book, Farewell to Manzanar, with her husband James in 1973. Remarkably, the Houstons convinced filmmaker John Korty to adapt this book in a made-for-TV film in 1976. Both Houston and Korty will be part of the dinner program.
Interest in the Japanese American World War II experience has expanded into widely-viewed films like Steven Okazaki’s Academy Award short documentary, "Days of Waiting" and Ken Burns’ epic series, "The War". Most recently, the story has reached Japan in documentaries by NHK, Fujisankei and UTB. Even the Tokyo Broadcasting System aired a lengthy serial based on the story of Japanese Americans entitled, "99 Years of Love."
Actor George Takei is producing a new musical, "Allegiance", which is set in one of the World War II camps. One of the songs from this show will be performed. Frank Buckley, co-anchor for the popular KTLA Morning News, will be the master of ceremonies.
The National Museum’s Annual Dinner is its largest single fundraiser. Signature Sponsors for this event are the Aratani Foundation, the Terasaki Family Foundation, and Union Bank/The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. Presenting Sponsors are Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc., William & Carol Ouchi/AECOM and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. Diamond Sponsors are American Airlines, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Guy & Audrey Watanabe. Emerald Sponsors include American Fish & Seafood Company, The Capital Group Companies, Inc./Frank Sanchez, Sempra Energy and George & Ruri Sugimoto.
The Dinner Committee Co-Chairs are Gene Kanamori, National Museum Governor and Wendy Shiba, National Museum Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. The dinner also includes a Silent Auction, the opportunity drawing for the 2013 Lexus GS 450h, donated by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and the live Bid for Education, which supports the Museum’s educational programs. This is the second year the Museum has held its annual dinner at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.
Tickets for the dinner are still available.