Born In: Fukushima, Japan
American lawyer and Democratic politician Mazie Hirono has been serving as the junior United States Senator from Hawaii since 2013. She has previously been a Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives, the 9th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, and a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii's 2nd district. She had a tough childhood, and her Japanese American mother had to migrate to the US from Japan, after Hirono’s father became an alcoholic and gambled away her mother’s savings. In Hawaii, Hirono had a tough time initially, as she did not know English. However, she worked her way up, and obtained a psychology degree and a JD, both from American universities. She later worked in antitrust litigation, before stepping into politics. She is the first Asian American woman to be part the US Senate and the first female senator from Hawaii. She is also the first Buddhist and the first Japanese-born US senator.
Also Known As: Mazie Keiko Hirono
Spouse/Ex-: Leighton Kim Oshima (m. 1989)
father: Laura Chie Satō
mother: Hirono Matabe
Born Country: Japan
Notable Alumni: University Of Hawaii At Manoa
Diseases & Disabilities: Kidney Cancer
education: Georgetown University, University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Mazie Keiko Hirono was born on November 3, 1947, in Koori, a small village in the Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Her mother, Laura Chie Satō, was a Japanese American, and her father, Hirono Matabe, was a Japanese World War II veteran.
As a child, she was sent to her grandparents’ rice farm in Fukushima, by her mother, as her father was an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler. In 1955, after her parents’ marriage broke, Hirono, who was barely 8, and her brother, Roy, moved to their native place, Honolulu, along with their mother. They boarded the President Cleveland in Yokohama and reportedly crossed the Pacific in steerage.
Once in the US, her mother began working at a Japanese-language newspaper to support the family. Hirono attended the Kaʻahumanu Elementary and Koko Head Elementary Schools. However, she faced a lot of issues initially, as she neither spoke nor understood English. She also worked as a student cashier in her elementary school to fund her lunches.
Mazie Hirono graduated from the Kaimuki High School, and then joined the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. At the university, she had her first experience with public service and advocacy. She volunteered, tutored, and paid weekly visits to patients at the state mental health facility. During this time, she also participated in student movements on the Vietnam War.
In 1970, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Hawaii. She was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar. In 1978, she got her JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC.
After getting her law degree, Mazie Hirono went back to Honolulu and worked as a lawyer, more specifically, in antitrust litigation at the Hawaii attorney general's office. In 1981, she became a Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives and continued in the position till 1994. During this time, she also chaired the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee and worked toward protecting the rights of Hawaii's workers and consumers.
In December 1994, she took over as the 9th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii and continued serving in the post till 2002, when she was defeated by Republican Linda Lingle. In her capacity, she worked for Hawaiian workers' compensation insurance laws.
She also helped improve early childhood education. She promoted Hawaii's tourism industry, too, with the help of visa reforms.
In January 2007, she became a Member of the US House of Representatives from Hawaii's 2nd district and ended up serving three terms. The seat was once held by Patsy Mink, who was the first Asian American woman in US Congress.
During her tenure, Mazie Hirono helped preserve Hawaii's pre-paid health care law. She also worked toward protecting Native Hawaiian education programs and became a champion for quality early childhood education. She worked for food and energy sustainability and continued to support Hawaii's tourism industry, while creating jobs at the same time.
In 2012, she decided to run for the US Senate, to fill in the vacant seat of retiring senator Daniel Akaka. Eventually, Hirono ended up winning the seat and took over as the US Senator from Hawaii on January 3, 2013.
The Democrat thus scripted history as the first Asian American woman to be a member of the US Senate. Hirono was also the first female senator from Hawaii and the first Buddhist and first Japanese-born US senator. Her term ends on January 3, 2025.
In her capacity as Hawaii's US Senator, she welcomes Hawaii visitors to her office in Washington DC office for weekly Talk Story events. She has also supported Hawaii on the Hill, an event to promote local businesses.
She has also worked as part of the committees on Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs. In that capacity, she safeguards the US security in the Asia-Pacific region.
She also makes sure to honor veterans, servicemembers, and their families. She has supported programs to honor Filipino World War II Veterans, to promote clean energy use by the army, and to promote small businesses of Hawaii. She has also invested in the training of servicemembers.
She has been part of the Senate Judiciary Committee, too, working to secure fairer treatment of the minority groups, including immigrants. She has also fought against unqualified nominations and worked toward protecting general civil rights.
A liberal Democrat, she is pro-choice and supports reproductive rights. She has also supported the Military Justice Improvement Act and advocated for more relevant immigration reforms.
She has been a prominent supporter of gun control reforms. In 2017, after her surgery for kidney cancer, she voted against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She also supports Medicare for All.
She has spoken for community development and secure housing. In 2019, she co-sponsored the Digital Equity Act, which gave the National Telecommunications and Information Administration the control of evaluation of digital equity projects.
In 2021, Mazie Hirono published her memoir, Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter's Story. The same year, Japan announced they would award her the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star for her contribution to the bilateral relations between Japan and the US.
Mazie Hirono married Leighton Kim Oshima, a divorcee, in 1987. Oshima already had a child from his previous marriage.
She was diagnosed with stage-4 kidney cancer in May 2017. The cancer had spread to other parts of her body. On May 17, 2017, she got her right kidney removed and recovered from cancer. Soon after, on May 22, 2017, she got back to the Senate and, in 2018, was re-elected to a second term.
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