November 19, 2013

A pioneer for women's equality

Hirono remembers her friend and inspiration’s legacy

When I arrived at the Capitol in 2007 to take my oath as a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I had the privilege of filling the seat held for so long and so well by my friend Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. I was so grateful to her.

I felt Patsy’s presence when I cast my first vote in Congress, which was to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. I rose and said, “In memory of Patsy Mink, I cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi.”

I remember Speaker Pelosi turning around in her chair upon my vote and flashing me a knowing smile. Earlier, Nancy told me that Patsy was the first person to tell her that “one day, you’re going to be speaker.” And that day had arrived!

On that occasion, there were a lot of people with tears in their eyes remembering Patsy. Many came up to me then and thereafter, sharing their stories and memories. But I am sure she wouldn’t have wanted to be idolized or put on a pedestal. Instead, she would want us to work hard to build on the legacy she left behind.

A major part of Patsy’s legacy is the landmark Title IX legislation, which she co-authored and relentlessly fought for. It has been renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation gives women and girls equal access to higher education, protection from sexual harassment and prohibits gender discrimination in all educational activities. No longer could universities and institutions of higher learning reject a woman because they had “fulfilled their quota of female students,” as many women were told, including Patsy’s daughter

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By:  Senator Mazie K. Hirono
Source: Politico