For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Statement By Administrator Samantha Power

When Norman Mineta was ten years old, he and his family were forcibly removed from their home in San Jose, California, and imprisoned in an internment camp. For three horrific years, Mineta and his family lived in barracks hemmed in by barbed wire – along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants forced to leave behind their homes, businesses, and communities. These experiences motivated Mineta to pursue a career of public service, and as he resolved when he became the first non-white member of the San Jose City Council, “I took the position that I was going to speak out for those who are either not represented or underrepresented.”

Mineta went on to become the first Asian American mayor of a major U.S. city, the first Japanese American member of Congress, and the first Asian American to serve in a Presidential Cabinet, which he did twice – as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush. He also played a critical role driving policies and reforms that have touched countless American lives, from the creation of Transportation Security Administration to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for the injustices that Japanese Americans endured during the Second World War.

This year’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation,” pays homage to trailblazers like Mineta. Today, AANHPI leaders are advancing progress in every sector – from Reshma Saujani, who founded Girls Who Code to bring computer education to girls around the world; to neuroscientist Dr. David Wong, whose work transformed the medicines that treat mental health disorders; to fashion designer Prabal Gurung, who has dressed high-profile figures like Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton, while working to amplify Asian voices and contributions around the world.

USAID is committed to increasing AANHPI representation through targeted campaigns and outreach, as well as partnerships with AANHPI-serving higher education institutions. Over the last year, USAID has welcomed to our New Partnerships Incubator three AANHPI institutions from Hawaii, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. USAID will also be piloting its High School Model USAID program in Guam in spring 2024.

When we remember Secretary Mineta and pioneers like him, we honor the countless Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders who have not only enriched our country, but who have overcome tremendous barriers to do so. On this day, we reaffirm our commitment to eliminating these barriers and forging a more inclusive and representative future.

Samantha Power
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