MEET THE REMARKABLE INDIVIDUALS WHOM WE
ARE GATHERING TO HONOR
Norman Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Public Service Award
Norman Mineta was born and raised in San José, California, to parents who emigrated from Japan. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mineta's family was forced to relocate and live in an internment camp. Despite experiencing one of the worst examples of government-sanctioned racial discrimination in our country's history, Norman Mineta has dedicated the greater part of his working life to the service of his community and country.
From 1975 to 1995, he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of Congress, Mineta was known for his dedication to the people of his district, for consensus building among his colleagues, and for forging public-private partnerships. He co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as its first chair. Mineta proposed legislation authorizing a formal apology and monetary reparations to those put in internment camps during World War II. Year after year, Mineta pressed the matter, finally securing passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
Norman Mineta became the 14th U.S. Secretary of Transportation on January 25, 2001. Following the attacks of 9/11, Mineta successfully directed all flights over United States airspace to land immediately, and secured the cooperation of the Canadian government in diverting incoming international flights to Canada. In the weeks that followed, he won widespread praise for restoring public confidence in the transportation system. Over the next year, he played the leading role in establishing the Transportation Security Administration, a federal agency responsible for insuring the security of air travel.
Prior to joining President Bush's administration as Secretary of Transportation, Mineta served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, becoming the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the cabinet. Prior to joining the Commerce Department, he was a vice president at Lockheed Martin Corporation. He is currently Vice Chairman of the Washington-based public relations firm Hill & Knowlton.
Lakhwinder "Rana" Singh Sodhi, Arizona
Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Award
Since 9/11, Rana Sodhi has been devoted to mobilizing the Sikh American community to create awareness about the Sikh faith, as well as serving as a spokesperson against hate and violence. Rana Sodhi is the younger brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, America's first post 9/11 hate crime murder victim. Balbir was gunned down at his Mesa gas station just days after 9/11 by Frank Roque, who claimed he was seeking revenge for the terrorist attacks. In August 2002, Sukhpal Singh Sodhi, Rana's other brother, was shot in the back in mysterious circumstances while driving a cab in San Francisco. Nine months later in May 2003, Rana's friend, Avatar Singh Chera, was shot by three men who yelled, "Go back to where you came from!"
Despite these tragedies, Rana has sought exoneration for his brothers' murders by working to educate fellow Americans in an attempt to prevent further hate crimes; representing his family and his brothers; running his numerous small businesses to support his family; and, most importantly, teaching his three children how to inform others about tolerance and respect. Along with being a small business owner, Rana serves as a member of the Sikh advisory of the Phoenix Police Department, is actively involved with various facets of his community, and supports the activities of several civil rights organizations. Rana's dedication to the community has been awarded by the City of Phoenix and the Anti-Defamation League. He was also invited by President Obama as a guest at the White House State Dinner honoring the visiting Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Dick Durbin, United States Senator
Dalip Singh Saund Legislative Leadership Award
Senator Dick Durbin, is a U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois. Senator Durbin also serves as the Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, the second highest ranking position in the Senate. Senator Durbin is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights and the Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government subcommittee.
Senator Durbin is known as a champion of civil rights for all people. Immediately following 9/11, Senator Durbin introduced the Hate Crimes Resolution, condemning the hatred and violence targeted at Sikh Americans. Senator Durbin was also a primary supporter of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act which strengthened the existing hate crime laws. Senator Durbin also sponsors the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, both of which aim to strengthen efforts to prevent school bullying in primary and secondary education settings.
S. Floyd Mori, Japanese American Citizens League
Dorothy Height Coalition Building Award
Floyd Mori is currently the National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) after having served as Director of Public Policy for the JACL, the oldest and largest Asian American civil and human rights organization in the nation. He also served as the Chair of the National Council on Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of national Asian Pacific American organizations of which SALDEF is a part of.
Mori was an International Business Consultant and President of Mori-Silva International for fifteen years. While teaching Economics at Chabot College in Hayward, California, Mori became involved in politics and was elected City Councilman and Mayor of the City of Pleasanton, California, in the Bay Area.
Deep Singh, Jakara Movement
Youth Leadership Award
Deep Singh is one of the co-founders of the Jakara Movement. The Jakara Movement is a Sikh youth organization in the diaspora, working on issues of social, health, and educational justice. As a sevadar with the Jakara Movement, for over a decade, he has aided in the establishment of Lalkaar (North America's longest running Sikh youth conference), Sikholars (a Sikh graduate student conference in the diaspora), Jakara Juniors (the largest single youth camp in the diaspora, concurrently held in over 17 cities), Ladoos: Pink and Blue (an initiative to promote gender equality and health education amongst young mothers), Bhujangi Youth Academy (a retreat for at-risk Sikh teenagers), The Langar Hall (a Sikh blog), and a host of other projects throughout California. He is well-known amongst the California Sikh youth for his passion, dedication, and intelligence and amongst various Sikh organizations for his collaboration, assistance, and partnerships.