Mazie Hirono reads a lot of books. Her favorite theme: when good triumphs over evil. She sometimes fantasizes about writing the great American novel, but whether she’ll ever find the time to do it is another matter.
The former lieutenant governor, who has spent a total of 22 years in elective office, has kept busy since her run for governor in 2002, indulging both her commitment to public service and her personal artistic passions.
“When you’re in office for 22 years, there’s a lot of focus on what you’re doing, so after the gubernatorial race I gave myself plenty of time to take care of some personal things,” says Hirono, now 57. “I realize how fast time passes and how important it is to do things that really are emotionally and psychically satisfying.”
Hirono, who appeared on the cover of MidWeek in December 1994 after first being elected L.G., took a lot of college art courses, including ceramics, drawing, painting and art history.
But her years as a state legislator and a double term as lieutenant governor of Hawaii in Gov. Ben Cayetano’s administration left little time for any serious artistic endeavors.
“I love art,” says Hirono. “I’m not very good at it, but I appreciate the process of creation.”
Hirono plans to make this August her “art and culture” month. She’ll travel to Seattle for Wagner’s Ring Cycle, four days of opera. Then she’ll go to Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival and see nine plays in one week. To finish, she’ll travel to San Diego where she’ll get her hands dirty making ceramic pieces with an old friend who has a pottery studio.
Hirono’s ongoing ceramic project is a takeoff on international artist Jun Kaneko’s “Dango” series. Hirono displays two of her own four-piece Dango (the Japanese word for dumpling) series in the photo above — Happa Dango (happa means leaf) and Dango Hands.
When MidWeek asks if she’ll be selling her dumpling art, Hirono lets out a big laugh. “No …” she says. “I would have to spend a lot more time doing art if I were going to do that.”
But Hirono does feel it’s important to have creative expression in life. “Obviously, politics is a very creative field, but the right brain part of working with my hands is a lot of fun.”
Don’t, however, think Hirono has plans to give up her political career. “I’m not done with politics, but how my continuing desire to serve will manifest itself, I’m not sure,” she says.
“Running for governor took up a lot of time in 2002, and although the result was not what I would have wanted, the experience was once-in-a-lifetime. I learned a lot. I hope there’s another opportunity for me to serve in some way through electoral office.”
In the last two years, Hirono has continued her involvement with other political endeavors, including co-chairing the Kerry/Edwards effort in Hawaii with a march around the Capitol that drew 500 supporters. She is also a board member of the National Asia Pacific Bar Association, which has her traveling to Mainland meetings often.
After the governor’s race, Hirono and other women from her campaign also started the Patsy T. Mink Political Action Committee, whose purpose is to raise money to help elect and keep in office pro-choice, Democratic women. In the 2004 elections, they endorsed eight pro-choice Democratic women and seven of them were elected.
“Nationally, we are losing women in electoral office,” says Hirono. “We know how important it is to keep women in the leadership pipeline because we bring different kinds of experiences and talents and issues to the table.”
No matter what she’s striving for, Hirono has been and always will be a “doer.”
“One thing I know about getting anything done is you need the champions, not just the people who sit around and say, ‘Wouldn’t this be a great idea?’” she says. “It’s really important in my own life to take risks and travel off the usual path. I’m not interested in just taking up space. Never say never. Who knows what the future holds?”
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