The Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain has taken another step closer to completion with the awarding of a $149,646 grant from the National Park Service to help fund an exhibit dedicated to the lives and careers of Secretary Norman Mineta and Senator Alan Simpson.
The grant, announced Wednesday, comes from the Japanese American Confinement Sites program, which supports projects at Heart Mountain and other locations where Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
Mineta and Simpson first met as Boy Scouts at a jamboree inside the barbed wire at the Heart Mountain incarceration camp in 1943. Their remarkable friendship spanned 79 years until Mineta’s death last year and was marked by their dedication to public service and setting aside partisan differences to find solutions to the challenges facing all Americans.
The exhibit supported by this JACS grant will trace the lives of both men from their childhoods in San Jose and Cody through their careers in Congress and afterward. Mineta served more than 20 years in the House and was a secretary of Commerce and Transportation under two presidents, while Simpson served three terms in the Senate from Wyoming. Their commitment to bipartisanship was exemplified by their receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from presidents of the opposing political party — Mineta from Republican George W. Bush and Simpson from Democrat Joe Biden.
“We’re building the Mineta-Simpson Institute to help Americans find common ground, and this exhibit will be devoted to showing the full range of the contributions by Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson to make America work together,” says Shirley Ann Higuchi, the chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.
Executive Director Aura Sunada Newlin adds, “Our aim is for visitors to identify with the love and respect that Simpson and Mineta felt for each other. Visitors may not agree with either leader’s political positions; indeed, we expect that many will not. The point is for visitors to emerge from the exhibit with a heartfelt sense that disagreement need not devolve into dehumanization.”
Construction of the Mineta-Simpson Institute is an expansion of the existing Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. The grand opening will be during the 2024 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage in late July.