United States Senator
Mazie Hirono is a first-term United States Senator from the state of Hawaii. Born in Japan, she is the only immigrant currently serving in the Senate, the first Asian-American woman and the only Buddhist to serve in that legislative body. She believes in the power of creativity and feeds her spirit through her quiet practice of crafting pottery and collecting beautiful objects. Her mother’s steadiness and firmness of spirit is a guiding light in her life, especially as she undergoes treatment for Stage 4 kidney cancer.
Mazie Hirono will not speak the ugly Japanese name that her father Matabe gave her the day she was born in 1947 in the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. To utter the name is to reprise a father’s curse that her mother Chieko reversed when she bravely defied her violent husband, snuck to the register’s office, and secretly changed her first-born daughter’s name.
The baby girl went from an unspeakable name with the sinister meaning akin to “life of servitude,” to the lucky name her mother chose for her: “Keiko” meaning “blessed child.” The Buddha reportedly said, “With our thoughts we make our world.”
Hirono believes this: thoughts make our world, and the naming of a child can shape a life. Chieko had become a servant to her abusive husband and his family. She thought her daughter should not be a servant to anyone, so she changed her name and she changed her fate. Fleeing an abusive marriage in Japan to create a new life in Hawai’i was by no means the path of least resistance. But Chieko chose that difficult way--single motherhood and working multiple jobs—to make a life for her children. She believed in herself, and wanted her daughter to do the same.
The daughter she named did become a servant, a public servant, who was inspired by her mother’s belief that one person sacrificing for others can make a world of difference.
Mazie Keiko Hirono, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman to serve in the Senate, and the first Senator of any gender born in Japan, feels lucky to have been the daughter of one courageous woman who believed in herself enough to change her baby girl’s name and her fate.
The reserved Senator Mazie Keiko Hirono likes nothing more than a quiet weekend of reading, making scones, and fashioning clay into beautiful pottery. But she chose the difficult way of politics propelled by the belief that her life has a purpose and that the world is created one person at a time.