Mazie Hirono: Reading The Feminine Mystique
Hirono on the impact of reading Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique as a college student and realizing that she needed to have higher expectations for herself.
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator from Hawaii, shares her story of immigrating to America with her single mother from Japan, learning English, and discovering her knack for politics, first as a campaign manager and eventually as the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate.
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator, Hawaii
[MUSIC PLAYING] MAZIE HIRONO: I was born in Fukushima, Japan. And for all intents and purposes, I wouldn't be sitting here if my mother hadn't made a decision when I was young that she needed to get is away from an abusive husband. That was my father, and I never got to know him. She had tremendous courage at a time in Japan where women just didn't do this sort of thing.
Just before I was eight years old, we literally got on a boat-- a ship-- and sailed to this place called Hawaii. I remember my grandmother coming to Yokohama Harbor, and how much I cried. I cried every day for days on end on this ship because I missed her so much.
And I had no idea what to expect when we landed. We had literally one suitcase.
When I came here, I spoke no English, and I was totally discouraged from speaking any Japanese. In those days, we were not encouraged to retain our language or particularly our culture.
I always felt different. I felt much more mature than a lot of kids my age, because I had a mother who was struggling to support all of us.
The expectations for women, when I was going to high school, was that politics was not on the agenda. But during the, you know, time that I was in college, I began to protest the Vietnam War. And that's the first time that I questioned what my country was doing and opened my eyes to politics as a way to make social changes.
It took me 10 years of running other people's campaigns, getting a law degree, before I thought, well, I think I should be a candidate. That's very much in line with the experience of a lot of women, particularly women of my generation. It took us a while to decide that we had something to bring to the table.
And I became the first female, Democratic nominee for governor in Hawaii. My Republican opponent was also a woman, and it's only the second time in the history of our country that the nominees both happened to be women.
I congratulate Linda Lingle. Linda, I know that you're going to do your very best for the people of this state.
It was my first loss, but it was a big one. We were outspent by a lot.
I know how disappointed you are.
I remember that night, I said, I think I have one big race left in me. And I tell people what I learned from that race and that loss was how to win.
I really had to think about, do I want to stay in this relatively safe seat, or do I want to go into the unknown? And of course, I picked the unknown, because that's what I do. [CHUCKLES]
I was very focused on what I needed to do, but I take nothing for granted. And so up to the last day, I'm thinking, OK, let's just win this thing. I never thought that I had it in the bag. I never think that way.
REPORTER: Hawaii elected its first female US senator, Mazie Hirono. She's also the first Asian-American woman to be in the Senate. Hirono won in a landslide victory.
MAZIE HIRONO: At my election night gathering for this Senate race, my mom had had this looked in her face. And I said, Mom, you're thinking about what it was like when you came here many years ago and our struggles. So we both had tears in our eyes.
There's nothing I could do in my life that would be as hard as what she did, bringing us to this country. My mom showed me through her example that one person can make a difference.