Cultivating Hope & Solutions Across Differences

The government claimed these immigrants and their American-born children could be acting as spies and saboteurs, aiding the enemy. Yet, officials never produced any evidence of wrongdoing. Young Norman Mineta and his family were among those sent from their home in San Jose, California to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. 

Alan Simpson grew up in Cody, Wyoming, just 13 miles from the Heart Mountain camp. Simpson was at first frightened when his Scoutmaster announced a visit to the incarcerated Japanese American Boy Scouts inside Heart Mountain. Once at the camp, Simpson and Mineta were paired up to share a pup tent. Neither forgot the friendship forged during those few days spent together at Heart Mountain. 

Years later, Mineta would be elected the first Asian American mayor of a major U.S. city (San Jose), and go on to serve 20 years as a US Congressman for California. Though a Democrat, Mineta’s reputation won him favor across party lines. President Clinton appointed him as Secretary of Commerce in 2000 and President George W. Bush named him Secretary of Transportation in 2001. 

Simpson spent 12 years in the Wyoming Statehouse before serving 3 terms as the Republican Senator from Wyoming. In 2010, at the request of President Obama, Simpson served as co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

Throughout their long careers, spent on opposite sides of the political aisle, Mineta and Simpson maintained the friendship they built as children. Their patriotism and values overcame their political differences, and they worked together to find common ground. Among their proudest accomplishments was contributing to the passage of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, which provided redress for Japanese Americans unjustly imprisoned during World War II. 

Their dedication and willingness to collaborate beyond the boundaries of party affiliation is echoed in the efforts of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation: helping communities learn from history and build a better tomorrow.

Over the past several years, fear and anger have become dominant forces in American politics. For our elders, who were unjustly imprisoned during World War II because of their race, this political climate feels all too familiar,” observes Shirley Ann Higuchi, board chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. “To satisfy our mission, we realize the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation must not only educate about the past, but also help shape the kind of leaders we need for the future.”

Inspired by this vision, the Heart Mountain Foundation is creating The Mineta-Simpson Institute: a dedicated retreat space at the center, a home for workshops and programming specifically designed to foster empathy, courage, and cooperation in the next generation of leaders. The Institute will also expand the Foundation’s capacity for digital outreach, allowing Heart Mountain to carry its message all over the world.

“We are inspired in this endeavor by the lives, accomplishments, and — most of all — the friendship of Senator Alan K. Simpson and the late Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who met as boys at Heart Mountain and spent decades putting aside their political differences to work together and better the lives of all Americans,” continues Higuchi.

The Mineta-Simpson Institute will also use new processes and methods — from publications to augmented reality to documentaries to podcasts to digitized documents — to carry the story and lessons of Heart Mountain to national and even international audiences. The unjust incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II is a powerful reminder of the fragility of our rights and liberties when we are not vigilant in their defense. 


The Mineta-Simpson Institute, a new wing of Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, is designed to evoke the architecture of the camp’s communal mess halls.


Though Norman Mineta passed away in May of 2022, Senator Alan Simpson is proud to honor the legacy of their friendship through supporting the development of the Mineta-Simpson Institute. Celebrating Simpson’s 91st birthday — followed just weeks later by his beloved wife, Ann Simpson’s, 91st birthday — the Hughes Charitable Foundation is delighted to announce that we will match up to $500,000 in gifts through the Show Your Love Campaign.

“First of all, I want to thank Wayne and Molly Hughes for this extraordinary gift of generosity … a challenge grant of $500,000 bucks in honor of our birthday. We will be 91,” Senator Simpson said in a video showcasing the Show Your Love Campaign. “It's a true challenge and this is a critical juncture; it's not just for us, it's for this wonderful completion of a dream. What makes it an extra special thing is that both of us have received the Medal of Freedom from the United States and from the Presidency. Two boys, who were of opposite faiths, did things for America because we were first of all American citizens — not republicans or democrats.” 

A letter penned by Deni Mineta and Ann Simpson — the wives of Norman and Alan — echoes the need and potential impact of the Mineta-Simpson Institute: “‘Hatred corrodes the container in which it is carried,’ Al often says, and he and Norm have spent their lives and careers rejecting the hate that often poisons public life. Norm and Al have always bridged personal and political differences to put country first. They know that a result created by people working out their ideological differences is always stronger than one pushed by one side over the other. For more than 50 years in public life, they have shown that if you want to make a difference you have to do your homework (to learn more) and serve unselfishly.”

They continue: “This is why we were sincerely honored when the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, which has built a world-class museum on the site of the former camp, came to us with an exciting idea. They hope to further Al and Norm’s values through the construction of the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain. We believe the new facilities and programs that will make up this institute will enable future generations to learn so much more from the example Norm and Al have set.”

“In a time when so many challenges feel divisive or difficult to overcome, examples like that of Alan Simpson and Norman Mineta are truly beacons of hope,” says Molly Hughes, Executive Director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation. “We are thrilled to offer this challenge to all supporters of the Heart Mountain Foundation, and to help bring the vision of a collaborative, solutions-focused center to life. We’re confident that you all can rise to the challenge, and we can’t wait to see how you help celebrate Al and Ann Simpsons’ birthdays by doing so.”

“We’ll be watching,” adds Alan Simpson, “And we’ll be eternally grateful!” 

Make your gift to the Show Your Love Campaign now, and know that every dollar you contribute will be amplified by the Hughes Charitable Foundation! Click here to make your donation now, and help make the Simpsons’ birthdays truly unforgettable.