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U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta tells new lawyers to 'get involved'

Saturday, May. 12, 2001

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 12, 2001 - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta reminded Santa Clara University law graduates today that the lessons of his life experiences - from World War II internment camp resident to congressman and cabinet secretary - show that political involvement can make a difference.

Speaking at the 2001 commencement ceremonies for the Santa Clara University School of Law at 10:30 a.m. today, Mineta was awarded the Peter Burnett Award for Distinguished Public Service. The award noted how Mineta, a former mayor and congressman and current member of the SCU Board of Regents, has "inspired others with your courage, strength, and vision as you dismantled barriers of prejudice and precedent."

The law school this academic year awarded 255 J.D. degrees and 19 L.L.M degrees. In addition, 48 of the law graduates received certificates in high-tech law, 25 in public interest law and 11 in international law. Recipients of the L.L.M. degrees in U.S. law are foreign students from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, England, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, and Vietnam. Approximately 3,500 family, friends and faculty attended the ceremonies in Mission Gardens.

Mineta's audience of law students and their families reflected the fact that SCU's law school is among the 10 most racially and ethnically diverse in the U.S., with 32 percent of its students African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Native American, In addition, more than 56 percent of the law class of 2001 are women.

Mineta and his family had been among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes and into internment camps during World War II.

"As Americans, regardless of our background, we are more alike than we are different," he said in his commencement speech. "Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of our fellow Americans."

He reminded the graduates of their "obligations of leadership."

"You have spent the last several years of your life learning the rules of the game," he said, asking the law graduates "to use your knowledge on behalf of your community and on behalf of your nation."

"Raise your voice, get involved, remember your obligations…you can make a difference."

Mineta became involved in San Jose city politics and was the first Asian-Pacific American mayor of a major U.S. city. From 1975 to 1995 he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as secretary of commerce under President Clinton, becoming the first Asian-Pacific American to serve in the cabinet. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in public service from SCU in 1989, when he spoke at undergraduate commencement.

While in Congress, Mineta was the driving force behind passage of H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for and redressed the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during the War. The SCU School of Law was founded in 1912. Approximately 900 students are enrolled in the law school, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and offers internships at high-tech companies, local law firms, local public services agencies and in 13 foreign countries in Europe and the Far East.

Today's commencement speakers' platform included 10 local judges who are SCU law graduates, as well as Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, an SCU law graduate who received a special alumni achievement award on Friday. Santa Clara University, the oldest institution of higher education in California, is a private Catholic, Jesuit university with approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 3,050 graduate students. The University celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2000-2001.

The 150th SCU undergraduate commencement will be June 16, and the graduate schools' commencement will be June 17, both at Buck Shaw Stadium.

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For information about the Santa Clara University School of Law, see http://www.scu.edu/law. For more information, call Barry Holtzclaw, media relations, at 408-554-5126, or 408-674-8866.

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