Mike Honda was born in Walnut Grove, California. In 1953, his family relocated to Santa Clara County from Chicago, where they had settled after their internment at Camp Amanche in Colorado during World War II. Honda attended local public schools, graduated from San Jose High School and went on to attend San Jose State University. Honda interrupted his studies in 1965 to serve for two years in one of the earliest Peace Corps volunteer programs as a community development specialist in El Salvador, where he became fluent in Spanish. Upon his return, he re-enrolled at San Jose State University to complete his bachelor of science degree in biological sciences and his bachelor of arts in Spanish. He later earned a master of arts in education, specializing in counseling.
Honda's career has been directed to serving young people in the field of education. He has worked as a teacher, vice-principal, and principal at local schools. In addition, he served on the State Curriculum Commission for four years, reviewing educational materials and classroom curriculum requirements. Honda also contributed to federal research on urban/rural schools. At San Jose State University, he was appointed campus ombudsman. He later held an educational research position at Stanford University.
Honda was appointed to the City of San Jose Planning Commission in 1971. During his eight years as a member, he served as chair of the commission several times. He was elected to the San Jose Unified School Board in 1981 and served as a member until January 1990.
Honda was first elected to the board of supervisors by an overwhelming majority of District 1 voters in 1990. He won re-election to a second term in June 1994. Maintaining essential county services such as transportation and preserving open space were areas of focus for Honda. He was heralded as the "Open Space Champion" when he led the campaign for the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, which was approved by the voters in June 1994. He also introduced legislation to protect farms from development and to preserve agricultural land. In addition, he won major reforms in farm worker housing standards and enforcement.
Changes introduced by Honda in the way general assistance was granted have saved the county millions of dollars. Concern about the presence of gangs and gang-related activity in the community prompted Supervisor Honda to take an active role in resolving this problem. He introduced a "zero tolerance" policy for Santa Clara County regarding the possession of guns and illegal weapons.
Dedicated to taking progressive steps to deliver higher levels of service, Supervisor Honda was instrumental in establishing the county's policy regarding bilingual ballots. In addition, he began exploring the principles of "total quality management" and applying them to county government. His low-key style and willingness to develop creative approaches to problems became characteristic of Supervisor Honda and his efforts to maintain the quality of life in Santa Clara County.
Honda was elected to the California Assembly in 1996 and was re-elected in 1998. As an Assembly member, he worked with Governor Gray Davis to draft landmark education reforms – including smaller class size and increases in teachers' benefits. As Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, he worked to pass sensible gun safety legislation to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles and voted to ban assault weapons. Mr. Honda was awarded "High-Tech Legislator of the Year" by the American Electronics Association for his strong advocacy for the high-tech economy. He fought for legislation to augment the research and development tax credit and worked to eliminate taxes on graduate school tuition paid by employers.
In 2000, Mr. Honda was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where served through 2016. He appointed to the House Budget Committee, the House Committee on Science, including its subcommittee on Research, and on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, including its subcommittees on Aviation, Highways & Transit, and Water Resources & Environment. Honda was also selected by his Democratic colleagues to serve as the Regional Whip for Northern California, Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam. As Regional Whip, he worked with the Democratic Leadership by communicating legislative priorities and strategies to members within his region. He also served as Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Mike Honda was featured in our Interview Project, highlighting the life and accomplishments of select Santa Clara County Supervisors.Supervisor Mike Honda Interview