She said goodbye to her grandparents and her three-year-old brother and the ginkgo trees and the only life she knew in Fukushima, Japan. Then, one afternoon in March 1955, 7-year-old Keiko Hirono, later known as Mazie K. Hirono, boarded an iron ship with her mother and older brother and set off across the Pacific to a new life in Hawaii. If her mother, Laura Sato Hirono, hadn't made the decision to move the family to her own birthplace to escape her husband, who is known for his alcoholism and gambling, Mazie K. Hirono might never have become a manager Hawaii State House of Representatives, or Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, or U.S. House Representative, or the first Asian American woman and Japanese immigrant to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Almost seven decades after settling in the United States, 73-year-old Senator Hirono is set to publish her memoir.heart of fire(departing tomorrow). While the memoir, which her husband encouraged her to write, is an intimate account of the senator's life, it is also an ode to her mother, who, as Senator Hirono writes, "never wavered in her belief that I wanted a life." ". I choose." Her mother, she says, is the person who most embodied that "heart of fire": a fighting spirit filled with determination, perseverance, and resilience.
"Heart of Fire"
heart of fireis announced to the world just a month and a day after the death of Senator Hirono's mother at the age of 96. The senator is reassured knowing she created this 416-page capsule about the spirit of her mother and grandmother: "With my mother in the state she was in, I really felt like this was a good one." Timing was to share her story "of my grandmother, and I'm glad I did," as she explored her journey to becoming the outspoken political figure she is today.
Prior to the book's publication, Senator Hirono spokeMaria Clarafrom his home in Hawaii about his standing in the Senate, the special moment he shared with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford shared how we can all channel the "heart of fire" within us.
Marie Claire: Was there a specific moment in your life when you realized you had a "heart of fire"?
Mazie Hirono:One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and it really illustrates - "two roads forked in a forest and I took the one less traveled" - how I feel. It's been a journey for me, doing different things, but always with my mother's support. I knew I didn't have a daughter who would marry, making this role much more traditional for the women of my day. This led to my brother once saying to him (I think he was 30 at the time), "When does Mazie get a real job?" My mother never pressured me. She just supported me in all the weird things I would do, like in politics. There weren't many women involved in politics, running popular campaigns and so on.
MC: In the book you talk about how your goal was never to be a wife and a mother.
MH:Well, even if I had this very brave and independent mother, there are still mainstream culture expectations and those expectations said that even if we went to college, women of my generation would get married and have children. Our professions would be more geared towards teachers or nurses. Both are wonderful jobs, but I wasn't particularly interested in them and didn't feel like I could do them. I write in the book about reading.The female mysticism, and I can see a lightbulb came on and I thought:Why do I think I'm going to get married and do all this?That's when I decided I wasn't going to wait for someone to take care of me.
MC: You seem to have a level of composure no matter how difficult things get, especially given the difficulty of campaigning and raising funds. Was there a particularly difficult moment that made you wonder whether or not you could continue on this public service path?
MH:When I decided to seek public office, I resolved to do whatever I could during my tenure. I know a lot of people who are always looking for and planning for the next big race. I didn't do that, which made life much more difficult for me when making decisions like this. We shouldn't wait for "when I get this job," "when I get this presidency." Forget it. Just do what you can in the here and now.
My husband and I often talk about how [nobody] could have predicted that I would spend most of my adult life in elected office.I didn't anticipate it, but the commitment was there. So I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do this, but it was quite unlikely. I've heard my high school classmates say to me, "We didn't know you were interested in politics." Well, it's not like I manifested any of that in high school. I'm grateful that I went to college and protested the Vietnam War because it was definitely an enriching experience for me.
MC: With the increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community, do you feel a great responsibility, perhaps much more so than some of your other Senate peers, to work?on the way to a solution?
mh: I definitely have a connection to the AAPIs that are indiscriminately targeted by these types of attacks. But I expect that everyone, regardless of whether they are of the same ethnic background, should be completely concerned about such attacks against any group. What I don't understand is why more people aren't speaking up, especially on the Republican side. But yes, I feel a connection that leads to a sense of responsibility to speak and add my voice to all other AAPI voices that speak. I've never seen as many AAPIs on TV as I do now, which is good.
MC: A major theme you write about is anger and what it means for women to be angry. If you had gotten "angrier" earlier in your career [before the Trump administration], would you have built the same reputation you have today?
MH:I've always thought of myself as a fighter, only I didn't have to be so eloquent about it. I'm very succinct with people, which is why I had a reputation as "Frozen" in the legislature for simply telling my colleagues, "Get over there, I'll do it." But I wasn't too loud about it. And that's why I laugh when people say, "Well, he found his voice." I've always had a voice. I get a lot of angry reactions to what I say, but it doesn't particularly bother me because I'll keep saying it. I think it's important right now that people know that there are people in elected office who are fighting for them.
MC: In the book you talk about how Dr. Christine Blasey Ford approached her while on vacation in Hawaii after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. I'm glad you included this moment because like many other American women, I often think of her and wonder how she's doing. This anecdote gave me some comfort.
MH:Yes. She told me it was fine. I was very surprised because he said he wanted to see me to thank me. I said, "Thank you. We all thank you for your courage,” despite all the negative things that have been said about her. It was really awful what happened to her in this whole process, but she points that out. We still have a way to go.
MC: Right. And the fact that she remembered you making eye contact with her during the hearings is impressive.
MH:Because that's the kind of person he is. She wants to connect. And he tried to get in touch with every single member of that committee, and by the way, Kavanaugh didn't do that. The contrast between the two was so obvious. And it is that people all over the world have been fascinated by the Kavanaugh hearings. I describe [in the book] how my friends in Europe were doing. They didn't leave their hotel rooms. They were glued to the TV. Many people observed what the United States would do in this situation.
MC: Immigration reform is important to you, as is education and jobs. Do you have specific goals or guidelines you want to achieve by the end of your career?
MH:One of the first things I want to do is help Joe Biden get this pandemic under control and get our economy back on track, which means I have to work hard to do itInfrastructure ActThis will create lasting jobs and benefits, fight climate change and do something about racism in our country. These are major areas of concern. I constantly tell my co-workers that the people of our country are being screwed every second, minute, and hour of the day, and if we can reduce that number with our efforts, we will make a difference. We'll do our job.
MC: You talk a lot about your mother's legacy. What should your legacy be?
MH:I'm not looking for a big legacy project or anything like that, because I also understand that all the battles that we thought we had won, for women's suffrage, for the right to vote, those battles weren't won remain. Eternal vigilance is required of all of us. I hope that people reading this book will be encouraged to speak up and show their opinions, not just physically but emotionally as well. Half the battle is revealed. We can all speak out against racism. We can speak for equality. And I believe that this fighting spirit, the "heart of fire", is in all of us. I hope that my book and what I do [in my everyday life] will encourage people to take this journey as well. All people have stories to tell about the challenges they face. If this makes us much more compassionate and tolerant of others, everything will be for the best.
This interview has been edited and abridged for clarity.
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