5 things you didn't know about Mazie
|1. Favorite Dr. Seuss Book?
- "Green Eggs and Ham"
2. Do you own "Daisy Head Maizey" (another Seuss book)?
- No, but I know there's a Maizey Bird in "Horton Lays and Egg." She's not a nice bird, so I don't relate to her, but she wants independence so I relate to that.... One of the few things people don't know about me, is that I grew up reading "Freddy the Pig" books... they were written by Walter Brooks and if you get them in first editions, considered rare books. I also have an interest in rare books.
3. Where did you go to elementary school?
- I went to Kaahumanu Elementary and Koko Head Elementary School (the same elementary of Hawaii411's James
Choy). I went to Koko Head when the area was called Koko Head and not Hawaii Kai.
4. What belt are you in judo?
- I am an honorary Brown belt.... my sensei, Al Aoki, is one of the founders of the 50th State Judo Association, said, "you need to come and do this and learn
kata." That's how I got my honorary brown belt.
5. What's your favorite UH sport?
I like football, but I'm a big booster, so I particularly like to go to the Wahine's volleyball and basketball games.
Hawaii411: If you win, would you be willing to take Hawaii411 to the Governor's Press Box at Aloha Stadium?
Mazie Hirono -
That's a name that has always been familiar to me. But what did I
really know about her? I'm not heavily into politics. I knew
she was the current Lt. Governor... Knew she'd been in politics and public
service for as long as I could remember... But not much else.
Nothing good, nothing bad, just... nothing.
Aren't politicians supposed to make
the headlines every week? Well, this interview really changed my mind
about that fallacy. Her self described style of 'top down results
oriented' leadership doesn't aim for the public spotlight... It aims to
get things done.
VH-1 may want to include a segment on Mazie on their 'Driven' series after
reading her website and this interview. Both really make clear what
drives Ms. Mazie and where she's really coming from. From
Books to Barf and from Babes to Burns, we cover it all in the following
interview. Read on.
Hawaii411: You were born in Japan, how did you get the name Mazie?
Mazie: It's the name my mother picked for me when I became a naturalized citizen. It's definitely not the name I would have picked, because who ever heard of 'Mazie?' It has to do with the fact that my mother had no basis of comparison, no idea what the popular names were. She was looking through a really old baby book and came across this name. She named my two older brothers Roy and Wayne, and said, 'Mom, what happened when you came to me?"
Hawaii411: Your mother left an abusive relationship in Japan to move to Hawaii with you and your brother. What kind of influence did she have on you?
Mazie: She has a tremendous influence on me because she was a woman in the aftermath of World War II in Japan. Things were grim, but grimmer still for my mom because she was in a very abusive relationship to the point where, from age three to when we came to Hawaii, I was raised by my grandmother so I could have some stability in my life. I went through my early childhood years knowing my grandmother better than I knew my mom. I learned a lot from my mother in that she had tremendous courage and the willingness to change her situation. She had the determination to literally put thousands of miles between us and our father so that he could never harm us or never get to us, and she made that decision when she wasn't even 30 years old.
The resilience, courage, and willingness to take risks are things I learned from her.
She was very busy, just trying to support us. She worked many jobs. The first
job she had here, she didn't have any sick leave or vacation. She was paid very little and we lived in a one-room boarding house. We started off with my older brother and me here first and my mother - my younger brother was too young to be brought here since there would be nobody here to take care of him, he was too young to go to school. He was left with my grandparents until my mother could call him and them to Hawaii several years later.
We started out very humble - single room boarding house. I don't know if you've ever visited boarding houses, but you share the
bathroom, you share a long hallway and one stove and one refrigerator at the end of the hallway for all the tenants. We slept on one bed, sideways. I'll never forget those years of struggle, but my mother had a tremendous resolve to make a new life for us to change my life. I learned not only hard work, resiliency, focus, but this idea that individuals make a difference - she made a difference in my life.
Hawaii411: How hard was it adjusting to Hawaii, not knowing a word of English?
Mazie: In those days they didn't have English as a Second Language class. In Kaahumanu school, I think there were 5 kids from Japan. I was almost 8 at the time. I really credit the public schools for doing their best to help us learn English. I think what we did was, once a week, we'd trot off to a teacher who didn't speak any Japanese, so we wouldn't be tempted, and we sit there for an hour just speaking English. My mother decided if I could just learn to count from one to one hundred in English, everything was going to be all right. I would come home from school, and she would come home late from work, and she would have me count from one to one hundred in English. It was like a talisman for her to get to that point.
On of the hardest thing for me (moving to Hawaii) was getting used to the food. I was brought up in very rural Japan - you never ate thing like butter and cheese, so the smells of these food were
really hard for me to take. The principal at Kaahumanu decreed that every kid had to eat everything on the plate. We didn't have a cafeteria then, and had to go with our trays, trot back to our classes, and I literally had to stand in front of my class and ask people to take my bread and butter. I would literally throw up from the smell of the butter. It was something I just couldn't take. If nobody wanted to take the food, you would have to eat it, and I thought that was very oppressive, that's why I don't believe in doing those things to children. I think you have to give them space.... I remember one day I came home from school, and my
mother asked me how was my day, and I had kept it in all day, I know this is kind of gross, but I threw up all over my mom.
Hawaii411: I'm glad we're not eating yet.
Mazie: Yeah (laughs) we haven't had breakfast yet. That was the hard part, the cultural change, but I have no regrets to having that background because it's what forged my commitment to making a difference.
Hawaii411: As a little girl growing up, did you ever think you'd be running for Governor?
Hawaii411 (in my worst Japanese accent): Didn't you mother say, 'Anno, one day you going be Gov - nah, ne... you can be Prezuden.'
Mazie: (laughing at my poor attempt more than the content) Well, you know I can't be President unless you change the constitution (you have to be born in the USA). I had no idea (about running for Gov at a young age), but what I did recognize very early on was that my life had changed by coming here. Japan - very rural, I was living on my grandparent's rice farm. We washed clothes in the ponds out back and had no running water in the house. This is what you call 'VERY RURAL.' You came to Hawaii with faucets and bathrooms. I knew that my life had changed for the better, even though my mother had to struggle.
Hawaii411: I should've brought my wife here because her mother is a single parent from Japan who worked 16-hour days to support them. Not the same as you, but similar. I think she would appreciate hearing this.
Mazie: Oh definitely. My mother lives with us, and my grandmother too, until '98 when she passed away.
Hawaii411: You were in the Mayoral Race, then you switched to the Governor's race, why not just run for Governor from the start?
Mazie: Well, there's no Mayor's race, so that's not a switch.
It's a decision I made to continue to in public service. I did start off running for Governor, and then I made a very difficult decision, which was definitely not whimsical, or based
on people trying to shove me out of the race or any thing like that. I made an affirmative decision that I would serve the community by being mayor of Honolulu and I thought, 'We need leadership there,' and that I would provide it. There were many factors in my decision, but the basic thing for me is that I have a commitment to public service. I've had it for 22 years. I started out wanting to make positive changes; that is still my motivation.
My entry into the public life, in this way, is something that came about as a result of some experiences I had as a university student - particularly getting to know some activists - anti-war activists (Vietnam). Some of the local leaders of the anti-war movement - one of them ran for office. I was his campaign chair while I was still at UH. Eventually I really began to share with the activist the idea that, 'if you want to make changes, do it from the inside,' you can't just sit on the outside throwing rocks, but the real hard part is to be on the inside to retain your integrity and your reason for being there and then to make a difference. That was the path I chose.
Hawaii411: One of the current Lt Governor candidates is criticizing you for being ineffective. Do you feel you did the job well, and in all fairness, do you think you were underutilized as a Lt. Governor?
Mazie: I think I have had more substantial projects as Lt Governor than any other Lt Governor besides George Ariyoshi, who took over as acting Governor when Governor Burns became ill. So, the fact that the community doesn't know it, or the press chooses not to cover my projects, doesn't make a difference to me in the sense that I'm going to do everything I can.
The job of the Lt. Governor is very wide open and it requires working with the Governor to focus on those areas of strength that the Lt Governor brings to the table. It's that very reason that every Lt Governor has his or her experiences, strengths, ideas, and I think the job should be flexible so that the Governor and Lt Governor can work together to come to the best way to use the skills of the Lt Governor. There's no question in my mind that I would work very closely with whoever is my Lt Governor.
It (the job of the Lt Gov) also depends on the leadership style and attitude of the Governor. If the Governor pretty much wants to do things himself in that he is at the apex of the decision-making, then I think it makes it a lot harder for the Lt Governor to be effective on an ongoing basis. Our current Governor is a very top-down kind of guy. I have a very different leadership style from him, but in spite of that, I have chaired the Science and Tech Task Force, which resulted in my co-founding university connections, which should be of interest to you, since the whole point of university connections is to bring together the research people at the University of Hawaii for the purpose of supporting technology transferring commercialization of research. The task force featured people from the university, from the private sector... a lot of people to focus on how to promote high tech in Hawaii. I also chaired the task force in Workman's Compensation, which resulted in huge reductions in workman's comp premiums and creation of a brand-new workman's comp insurance company. I chaired Pre-Plus which is the first time ever that the state is getting into providing preschool classes for 3 and 4 year-olds. I'm also the chair of a Hawaii Policy group, which is a part of a national group, which is focusing on teacher quality as a way to make subsequent changes to learning. These are all major projects that I have lead, and I bet you've not heard of many of them.
Hawaii411: Yup, that's about right.
Mazie: There you go. So, for the Lt Governor candidates who say that this office or I haven't done anything, I would suggest that they should do a little research first before they speak, because that's what I do. I don't go off shooting my mouth before I know what's going on. I think that's not the kind of leader that I would want. I would want somebody who does some research and who knows what he or she is talking about.
Hawaii411: Governor Cayetano has ruffled a few feathers, for one, with the teacher's strike. how would you have handled the strike differently?
Mazie: Having talked to the teachers both during and after the strike, the thing that they continue to be most upset about is just how he treated them and talked about them - as though he didn't appreciate the work they did and the difficulty of being a teacher and the fact that we have a big teacher shortage. There's more than saying things like, 'I'm not giving you your raises until you increase you productivity.' Having talked to teachers and having visited probably more schools than any other candidate - talking with the principals etc., the teacher are up to their necks in work. They need help. They need more educational assistants. They need help, not somebody saying you need to increase your productivity before I even talk about giving you raises. Those are the kinds of statements I would never have made. I also think that I would've been able to get a resolution. I did go to the Governor to offer to work with him to do anything I could to help with the negotiations to avoid a teachers' strike. He said at that time, ''thank you very much, but I'm doing it.' You know, collective bargaining is very much the responsibility of the Governor and he or she can look to anyone else for help, and I offered my help, but he declined. This is not something that I took out ads in the paper that said, 'Governor rejects...' you know, because I respect the office of the Governor and the responsibilities that he has. I never look at my role as Lt Governor as taking pot shots at him so I can make myself look better. That is not how I view my role. Maybe people disagree with that. Maybe people enjoy the battle and the fights, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to make a difference to try to accomplish something.
Hawaii411.com: I once read an article in one of the Hawaii newspapers/news magazines where the author stated he had a crush on you. Are you familiar with that? I'm not sure where I read it, but it's in my memory bank.
Mazie: (laughing) Well, hey I was on a radio program where this caller said,
"You're a babe" and I thought, 'all right, I'm 54 years old and all this gym time is making sense.' I'll take compliments in any way.
Hawaii411: Do you feel that, as an attractive female people don't take you seriously?
Mazie: I think that women in this country - if you look at the fact that we've only had 12 female governors on the history of our country, and it's a big deal to have a Fortune 500 company run by a woman - I would say that our culture still has some issues with women in leadership. Of course it shows itself otherwise, but I'd like to think that Hawaii is ready for a female Governor.
Hawaii411: Political parties aside, do you see it as a good sign for women that there is a possibility that both candidates for governor in the general might be female?
Mazie: I think that's a very exciting probability. Hawaii is one of two states that have women running for governor on both Democrat and Republican sides. This would be history.
Hawaii411: People are citing recent corruption in the government, not connected to you, but how do you restore their faith in Government?
Mazie: Ethics and integrity are part of what you do, it's how you behave, it's not something you talk about and you say to people - I have integrity, I have ethics, but that though everything you do manifest that as guiding your actions. Clearly nobody is for corruption. We all want to make sure the people who abused our public trust need to be prosecuted and they need to be held accountable, and that's happening. I think I share the community's sense of outrage, pain, shame and sorrow. What that does to me is make me even more committed that the good people need to stay in the game. The people with the integrity and ethics need to stay in the game and slug it out.
Hawaii411: Besides education and corruption in the government, if you could choose one other issue for Hawaii to focus on, what would it be?
Mazie: Economy is very important. It's tied to education. You can't have a strong vibrant economy without having and educated work force. The two go hand-in-hand. I'm the kind of leader that sees the connectivity of all of these areas.
Let me say a few things about the economy:
Tourism is an 11 billion dollar industry. It's our number one industry. It is the one way we can bring a big convention like the AMA or ADA convention that pumps millions and millions of dollars into our economy immediately. We need to support our #1 industry, however, we need to diversify that industry. People aren't just going to come to Hawaii for the experience of surf and sun any more. We need to diversify into areas of Edu-tourism, Cultural-tourism, Eco-tourism, Ag-tourism, Health and Wellness-tourism... those area are already beginning to grow, and we need to continue to do more. We need to help work with communities who want to promote tourism within their communities to see how best we can do it. We don't want to destroy the character of the community.
At the same time as we need to support our #1 industry, we can't be dependent on it. September 11, showed us how precarious that can be. We need to diversify our economy. We play to our strengths - that's how technology is a way to take us to our preferred future to create jobs for our young people. Our strengths are in the areas of biotechnology, ocean technology, and astronomy.
The two other growth areas that I am committed to - one is the film industry, which finally hit over $100 million, and diversified agriculture. Diversified agriculture is a big growth industry for Hawaii, which include aquaculture.
For all of that to happen we need to fall in place with laws that will foster these areas. You may know, that we have some of the best laws on the books to encourage high tech development. We have to market these laws. I recently met with an individual who wants to come to Hawaii and start a $50 million venture capital fund. The driver for him is this law that allows investors to come in and take advantage of these tax credits. Heaven knows we need venture capital in Hawaii.
Hawaii411: Speaking of tourism, you mentioned opening up Asia. Other than Japan, it's my understanding that Hawaii as a State can't open places like China, and it has to be done on a National level. Am I mistaken?
Mazie: On a national level, if you're talking about the Visa question (special tourism Visa's from Asia to the Hawaii and the rest of the US), that's another project I worked on as Lt Governor. I was looking at the tourism numbers from South Korea and it's was growing market from South Korea before their economy went down. Things were looking really great, Korea was one of the growth economies in Asia and a big barrier for them coming to the US, and their favorite place was Hawaii, was a visa requirement. I looked and this and thought, 'why shouldn't Hawaii take the lead in getting congress to change the visa requirements so that more South Koreans could come to Hawaii and the rest of the country. Hawaii of all states knew what the elimination of a visa requirement would do, i.e. Japan. When we lifted visa requirements from Japan, tourism in Hawaii go a big boost, so I thought we could do the same thing, and I thought Hawaii should take the lead. I convened all kinds of people from the tourist industry, from retailing, from the business side, and we made out a strategy on how we would get congress to change the visa requirements. We took it all the way to the US senate where I testified in front of a senate sub-committee. We got all the Governors associations, they all passed resolutions saying let's ease our visa regulations so that we can have tourists come to all of our states. The Governors know the barriers to tourism. On the national level, we need to push for visa easement and the country is missing the vote by not going in that direction. The problem is the visa issue is handled by the Department of Justice and the State Department - they are very law-enforcement oriented as opposed to the Commerce Department which is more tourism/let's get the economy going oriented. I know if the visa issue was handled on the commerce side then we would see more movement.
Nonetheless, I think as a state we can do a lot. For instance, HVCB entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chinese travel agency, so we can do that privately. Government needs to support and foster those kinds of MOUs. The reason for the MOUs is to get more Chinese tourists to come to Hawaii. We have sister city/state relationships all over the Pacific. That's an area that I would personally take interest in and I would want the Lt Governor there to visit and build relationships to encourage tourism and business partnerships with our sister cities. Those are two really important actions that I would take as Governor. There's a lot the state can do.
Hawaii411: What is your best quality?
Mazie: I'm very result oriented. I get things done by bringing the right people to the table who have the ideas and the different perspectives to get things done. I'm very collaborative in my leadership style, but it's the collaboration with the results as the end game. I'm not interested in sitting around having meetings and holding hands so everybody's all happy - no, what I do is based on achieving results.
Hawaii411: What quality would you most like to improve (I got these questions from a job interview)?
Mazie: I'm sure all of this have things to improve, probably one of them is to answer questions like this shorter. I'm a very substantive person and I tend to really go into things, but that's something I'm working on.
Hawaii411: I'm trying to get more organized in life.
Mazie: Okay, now you just reminded me, I would like to be less of a pack rat, I throw nothing away.
Hawaii411: What does the Democratic Party stand for?
Mazie: People, that's my one word answer.
Hawaii411: Why should Mazie Hirono be our next Governor?
Mazie: Because I have the experience, the commitment, the track record and the results-oriented collaborative style that we need. Frankly I think the top-down leadership style, where it's my way or the highway, where people don't come to the table and participate in the programs and decisions that affect their lives, that's not the way to you need to go. I think we've had too much leadership where it's I'm the Governor and I'm going to do this, this and this. The fact of the matter is, if the next Governor can not work with the legislature, for example talking about balancing the budget, the governor doesn't just say, here's my budget and that's it, the legislature works on the budget for the next five months. If the governor cannot work with the legislators as I can, that budget will be torn to shreds and you're not going to get a budge that truly reflects the needs or our people. I cannot stress the how important it is that the results you get have to be done through a different kind of process of leadership.
On thing that I'm always reminded of is Governor Burns, one of my models for leadership - someone who gets things done by walking around and talking to people, he says, 'any damn fool can take a stand.' That's very true, but you have to translate that stand into results and action. I'm not interested in taking a stand; I'm interested in getting results. That's why I want to be the Governor; I have 23 years of results.
HAWAII411 Conclusion: Well, there is a bunch to be said about our
current Lt. Governor, and she certainly detailed some of her
accomplishments to us in the interview. So much of politics is PR
and grandstanding, and it is refreshing to see someone with a
'results-oriented' style. Mazie has been one busy lady on the local
public service scene for the past 22 years, and today we hope that the
rest of Hawaii had a chance to get a brief glimpse of what the Democratic
gubernatorial candidate is all about. Hawaii411 would like to thank
Mazie for the interview, and we wish Mazie good luck in the election this