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Special Event

President Clinton Names Norman Mineta as Next Commerce Secretary

Aired June 29, 2000 - 12:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm afraid President Clinton is about to make remarks in the Oval Office. He's going to name former Congressman Norman Mineta as his nominee to be the next Commerce secretary.

Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... here. And I want to thank Secretary Daley for returning from his new duties to be with us, and for the truly magnificent job that he has done.

I also want to thank our deputy secretary of commerce, Bob Mallett, for being here today, and for also being part of that same tradition of excellence, his leadership in improving the way the department is run, and especially his efforts to open government contracting to women and to minority-owned businesses.

We couldn't do it without you, Bob, and we thank you for your service.

Norm Mineta is a worthy addition to the Cabinet. He was of course a member of Congress for 21 years, representing Silicon Valley, serving as chair of the House Committee for Public Works and Transportation. He was a leader on trade and technology in helping his colleagues understand and promote the emerging digital economy.

We worked closely together on trade issues, but on others as well, such as family and medical leave, where his support was absolutely pivotal, and he has ably chaired my advisory commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Now, Norm thought he had left politics for good in 1995 when he left Congress to work for Lockheed Martin. But politics and public service have a way of calling the best back.

Norm is one of the best, a strong leader for the Department of Commerce, a highly skilled negotiator in Washington and throughout the world.

He will play a crucial role in keeping our economic strategy on track, opening trade around the world, investing in our people, promoting high technology, bridging the digital divide.

He brings an in-depth understanding of American business and a strong sense of the needs of our high-tech economy. But he also has a deep concern for people, for the people in places who are not yet fully participating in this economy.

You see, Norm Mineta's family story tells a lot about the promise of the American dream and the power of one person's devotion to opportunity and to justice.

As a young boy during World War II, he and his family were forced from their home and held hundreds of miles away in a desolate internment camp for Japanese Americans. When he got home, young Norm vowed to work to make sure that kind of injustice could never happen to anyone else.

He grew up, went to college, served with the Army in Korea and Japan. And he began a career of public service in the San Jose government, becoming the first Asian-Pacific American mayor of a major American city. He was elected to Congress in 1974 and became the first Asian Pacific American to chair a major congressional committee. But he never stopped fighting for justice. His efforts led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided an apology and compensation for every survivor of the wartime internment camps.

I am proud to add to Norm's string of first by naming him the first Asian-Pacific American ever to hold a post in the president's Cabinet. I'm proud to have a man of his qualities as a member of our economic team as we work to make the most of this moment of unprecedented opportunity.

Recently, I received a remarkable book called "Asian American Dreams." It's author writes that Asian-Pacific Americans are a people in constant motion, a great work in progress, each stage more faceted and complex than before. As we overcome adversity and take on new challenges, our special dynamism is our gift to America.

Well, that pretty well describes Norm Mineta's life and why I decided to name him secretary of commerce. I am very grateful to him and to his wife for giving up the joys and the remunerations of private life to come back into public service. And I hope he will be swiftly heard and confirmed by the United States Senate.

Norm.

FMR. REP. NORMAN MINETA, NOMINEE, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Mr. President, thank you very, very much. I really am honored to be your nominee for secretary of commerce. And I am honored to be a member of the Clinton-Gore administration and its commitment to the development of new economic markets here and abroad.

And I am honored and humbled to be walking across this very historic threshold with you, Mr. President.

Our nation is now in the longest period of sustained economic expansion ever seen in its history. And this expansion is an achievement, and it is not by accident. It was achieved by raising the productivity and competitiveness of our businesses and our work force. It was achieved in large measure through the policies and the determination of the president and his administration.

There can be no more important task than to further advance the policies that have brought us to this triumph of economic performance and prosperity.

MESERVE: You've been listening to Norman Mineta. He's just been tapped by President Clinton to be his next secretary of Commerce. Mineta, who is 68, spent part of his boyhood in a World War II internment camp for Japanese-Americans. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first Asian-American to serve at a Cabinet post. He would replace William Daley, who quit to run Al Gore's presidential campaign. Mineta served for more than 20 years in Congress before going to work for the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

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