Norm Mineta will turn 82 on Nov. 12. His accomplishments from mayor of San Jose to U.S. cabinet secretary under two administrations are legendary. San Jose’s airport is named after him. But Mineta’s most important role has been that of a mentor for two generations of leaders.
It is not surprising that he is having his celebration next Friday at the home of Rod Diridon Sr. and Gloria Duffy. Diridon is the executive director at the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. Mineta has been a longtime mentor for the younger Diridon as well.
Norm doesn’t want gifts, but he would probably accept a donation to the campaign of his protégé U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, who currently holds the seat once held by Mineta. The two are longtime friends.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Supervisor Ken Yeager are former aides to Congressman Don Edwards. Lofgren was elected to the seat Edwards once held and has proved to be a worthy successor. Considering his reputation, like Mineta, those were big shoes to fill. But both Honda and Lofgren have learned from the best and we are the beneficiaries of those connections.
That’s how leaders work. It is not simply the single achievements you can claim personally—it is also the knowledge and opportunity you leave for others.
One of the greatest mentors in our valley is former state Sen. John Vasconcellos. It is a role he relishes and his vast influence continues to this day. He has been a trusted advisor and given people many opportunities—including this blogger.
Nearly every elected body or agency in California has somebody that Vasconcellos helped along the way. The same could be true for all of these individuals. Even out of office, their phone calls get returned.
We now have a new generation of leaders coming of age, including several candidates for mayor who could use the experience and knowledge of these icons. Other outstanding up-and-coming leaders include: Evan Low, Darcie Green, Ann Grabowski, Wendy Ho and Margaret Abe-Koga, to name a few.
These will be the leaders of the future, but their effectiveness will be gleaned from the politicians of today. This valley has a long history of strong and effective public representation, in large part due to the people who lead in the past.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.