HONOLULU, Hawaii- Mazie Hirono, the newest Senator for the state of Hawaii, is a Democrat who places importance on diminishing poverty levels domestically. She won her seat in the 2012 election as the first Asian American woman, first Buddhist and first female senator from Hawaii, gaining 63 percent of the vote.
Hirono was born on November 3, 1947 and grew up on a rice farm in Fukushima, Japan. At age 8, her mother planned to escape to America to offer more opportunities for her daughter. Immigrating by boat to Hawaii, they struggled at first and Hirono’s mother was forced to work two jobs to make ends meet.
Because of her mother’s dedication, Hirono was able to take advantage of Hawaii’s public school system. She thrived and went on to receive her B.A. at University of Hawaii-Manoa in 1970, which she says “opened my eyes to a life in public service and advocacy.” Afterwards, she earned a J.D. from Georgetown University in 1978.
Prior to being elected to the Senate, Hirono gained a seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives, where she served from 1980-1994. She was chair of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, which protected the workers and consumers of Hawaii.
After serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives, she was elected as Hawaii lieutenant governor from 1994-2002. Her focus was on early childhood education, which was important to her based on her own personal experience. She also promoted the tourism industry, which is a major part of Hawaii’s economy, specifically by supporting visa reform to allow newcomers to find employment and lift themselves out of poverty.
After serving Hawaiians on the state level, she ran for a seat in the House of Representatives, which she won in 2006. She continued to support education programs and the tourism industry as a job-creator in Hawaii. She also provided patronage for Hawaii’s pre-paid health care law and food and energy sustainability legislation.
In general, on the topic of fighting against poverty domestically, she has supported the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 as well as the Improving Access to Child Care for Homeless Families Act of 2012, to name a couple. She also voted against raising taxes for low-income earners and against extending tax cuts for the wealthy.
On the topic of foreign aid, Hirono has not shown extensive involvement in bills drafted to help alleviate global poverty as of yet. In July 2013, however, she gave support for the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013, which requires that the President draft a detailed report on the delegation of resources to foreign countries for Congress.
“As an immigrant who grew up under difficult circumstances, I recognize that my path to the Senate was unlikely. At the same time, my experiences have shown me the incredible opportunities available in America and have fueled my desire to give back.” Hirono’s reflections on her own individual experience show promise that she cares for those struggling in other countries seeking opportunities the way she did.
With consistent encouragement to support the international affairs budget from the citizens that elected her, Hirono will likely rally behind the goals of The Borgen Project. Her substantial interest in helping those in her home state of Hawaii is an auspicious sign as well, and Hirono’s successful political track and bright future in the Senate indicates she may become an influential ally in the fight against global poverty.
– Danielle Warren