CLINTON WATCH : Reaching Out
President Clinton has finally named an Asian-American to a highly visible and important post in the Administration. Dennis Hayashi has been appointed director of the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. The civil rights attorney heads to Washington with what the President called “a distinguished career of both legal and public advocacy for equal rights.”
Early on, Clinton made much of putting together a Cabinet that looked like America, but Asian-Americans were noticeably absent from high posts. Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose) when offered a position turned it down to assume the chairmanship of the powerful House Public Works and Transportation Committee; but surely there must have been other Asian-Americans qualified for top jobs.
In his new post Hayashi will have a prominence surpassing that of the few Asian-Americans who have been named to staff positions. Born and reared in Los Angeles, he is a third-generation Japanese-American whose parents were interned during World War II. He currently is national director of the Japanese American Citizens League, the nation’s oldest and largest Asian-Pacific-American civil rights organization.
Clinton says he wants an Office of Civil Rights that is more aggressive than in previous administrations. The office will expand its concerns to include medical redlining and job access for people who do not speak English. Hayashi’s appointment signals the Administration’s commitment to civil rights.
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