Sunday, September 29, 2002

Patsy Mink, shown with Neil Abercrombie at Democratic headquarters during the 1996 election, championed many causes.

Mink’s work on
women’s rights
and environment
serves as legacy

Her accomplishments praised

By Rosemarie Bernardo and Diana Leone

Athletes, educators, environmentalists and constituents remembered Patsy Mink for her contributions to women's athletics, education, the environment and to equal opportunity for all citizens.

» Liberal voice silenced
» Hawaii politicians express sorrow
» Would-be successors say now is no time for politics
» Female athletes will miss Mink's passion for equality

"She was always an outspoken advocate for women, children and the underrepresented, including those creatures of the Earth that can't speak and need someone to speak for them," said Lucienne de Naie, Hawaii Sierra Club conservation chairwoman and a small farmer in Huelo, Maui.

Most remembered and commended Mink for her work on Title IX of the Education Act, which mandates gender equality in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

"I can feel the difference (because of Title IX) where women sports can't be pushed aside and overlooked," said Sharon Peterson, volleyball coach at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, recalling the days when athletic programs were nonexistent for women during her college years in the late-1950s. "The ripple effect from her efforts will continue forever."

Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said Mink also "made sure the teachers had the tools and the knowledge to make a difference."

Ginoza said the last conversation she had with Mink involved the new federal No Child Left Behind Act. Mink was concerned that the children in her district were not achieving in the level where she wanted them to, she said.

"Her question was why? What can we do to help those children?" Ginoza said.

Ginoza also praised Mink's work on women's rights. "We would not have the advancement for education or for women in this nation if it was not for her fight and recognition of the inequities in our laws."

Ginoza recalled meeting with Mink in Washington, D.C., while lobbying Congress as HSTA president and a board member of the National Education Association.

"What she has taught me is not be afraid to take risks. If you believe in something, fight for it," she said.

Title IX has led to female athletes featured in sports pages and an increase in female students enrolling in graduate schools, said Jackie Young, director of marketing at the American Cancer Society and former Title IX coordinator for the Department of Education in the 1980s.

"She was our champion. She spoke loud and clear. ... She inspired and moved people to action. That's what a great leader does," said Young. "The doors have finally swung open. ... She was always making sure those doors remained open."

When the Sierra Club was lobbying to expand Haleakala National Park, "we took her on a tour there and she said, 'I'll help you any way I can,'" de Naie recalled. The park was expanded by 15,000 acres.

Mink worked hard to reduce noisy helicopter flights over national parks, de Naie said. "She was always looking for ways to make sure that the environment remained a priority, to pass good laws that protected air and water."

Mink also led the Waipahu community's successful battle against putting the city H-power plant behind its sugar mill, recalled former Waipahu store owner Goro Arakawa.

And she led efforts to unify a fragmented Waipahu under the Waipahu Community Association and to beautify the area under a program headed by First Lady Ladybird Johnson in the 1960s, Arakawa said.

"She did so much for Waipahu," Arakawa said.

Hawaii Kai resident Bill Kern noted, "She stood through thick and thin ... the values she stood for over the years, it was impressive.

"I appreciated and liked the work she did for us."

Patsy Mink's
honors and awards

2002 National Organization of Women "Woman of Vision Award" marking the 30th Anniversary of Title IX

2002 Henry T. Yost Congressional Recognition Award for 2002 for outstanding leadership in higher education, American Association of University Professors

2002 Lifetime Membership Award, The Judges of the U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Chapter of the Federal Bar Association

2002 Rainbow Wahine Honoree, 30th Anniversary Celebration, University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Athletics

2002 Community Health Super Hero Award, National Association of Community Health Centers

2001 Distinguished Service Award, Federal Managers Association

2001 Women's History Month Award, American Association of University Women/National Collegiate Athletic Association/USA Funds/Sallie Mae

2000 Award Recognizing Contributions to Struggle for Women's Equality and Human Rights, Feminist Majority Foundation

2000 Soroptimist's 2000, "Women Helping Women" Award

2000 National Japanese American Historical Society National Honor Awardee 2000 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Tufts University

1998 Winn Newman Lifetime Achievement Award, Americans for Democratic Action

1997 Hawai'i Women Lawyers Lifetime Achievement Award

1992 Outstanding Woman of the Year, National Association of Professional Asian American Women

1991 Feminist of the Year Award



Isle politicians praise
Mink’s political

By Helen Altonn and Diana Leone

Friends and colleagues of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink mourned the loss of one of Hawaii's most dedicated and tireless political leaders.

Condolences poured in to the family after the 74-year-old congresswoman died yesterday at Straub Clinic and Hospital.

"Patsy was my friend, colleague and a true daughter of Hawaii," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. "She was a person of spirit, tenacity and inner strength. I'm devastated by her loss. I will miss her terribly. I will especially miss her wisdom, her energy and her readiness to fight for principle."

He said Mink "fought tirelessly all her life for social and economic justice. Throughout nearly 50 years of public service, she championed America's most deeply held values -- equality, fairness and honesty. Her courage and willingness to speak out enabled her to make tremendous contributions in the fields of civil rights and education. She earned an honored place in American history as the author of Title IX, which guarantees equality for women in education programs."

Political analyst Dan Boylan said: "This is a truly sad day. Patsy Mink changed people's lives. Not many in Congress can say that.

"She had a big legacy, a hell of a legacy when you start thinking about it. She was the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress. She supported free speech, spoke out against the war in Vietnam, and her work in terms of Title IX had an extraordinary impact.

"Because of her, my daughter has opportunities to play sports that girls didn't when I was her age. Every father and mother of a little girl owes a big debt to Patsy Mink because of that.

"Whatever she was working on, she gave it her all. She had extraordinary fire and passion in the things she believed in ... a mind like a steel trap. No one ever questioned her integrity."

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka said: "Patsy was a petite woman with a powerful voice and a peerless reputation as a champion for equal opportunity, civil rights and education. She was a courageous and tenacious leader whose lifetime of public service made Hawaii a better place.

"Her leadership in health, education, child welfare and social services will endure and continue to benefit Hawaii's people and all Americans ... Patsy was a pioneer, a trailblazer for women, workers, minorities, the poor and the powerless."

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, enumerating some of Mink's achievements, said, "Her career was a brilliant one." She was a great voice and advocate of women's rights and for peace and education, he said.

Inouye, who was attending a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono at a Kahala home, said that voting for Mink in the general election would be "a great way to honor her."

Former Democratic Gov. George Ariyoshi said Mink advocated for women's rights and was "very strong on the environment. She was for equal opportunity for all people. She was willing to stand up and be counted."

Hirono said, "I'm just so saddened by this news ... I was so hoping for the best this morning. When I think about Patsy and what she's done for all of us, this firms up my resolve to fight the battles. I'm going to honor her by doing my best."

Ed Case, who lost to Hirono in the Democratic primary, said Mink's death is "an incredible loss for the entire state. She was a person who for me exemplified an absolute commitment to principle, to doing the right thing, to standing your ground and saying what you think.

"What an incredible life she led ... the barriers she broke all over the place. She deserves every accolade she received; she was a pioneer. A lot of people owe their progress to the work she did."

Former Maui Mayor Elmer Cravalho, who was a Maui High School classmate of Mink, said: "She's a fighter, a very principled person who was unafraid to express herself strongly and vigorously.

"Her positions and her thoughts and her objectives, I think, were very great for Hawaii and the nation ... as well as the entire world."

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris said, "For nearly 50 years, Patsy has courageously raised her voice of compassion and justice in the U.S. Congress. ... There will never be another like her and the people of Hawaii and the entire nation will long remember her service to those causes and issues which made this nation great."

Richard Port, former state Democratic party chairman, recalled that Mink signed him up as a party member in 1968 and they have been friends for 34 years.

"The people of Hawaii have lost a great representative for the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, for civil rights, especially for women," he said. "I am deeply saddened by her loss."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle and Duke Aiona, her running mate for lieutenant governor, canceled all of their electronic media through the weekend out of respect for the Mink family.

"Rep. Patsy Mink has been a visible and active citizen of Hawaii nearly all of her life," they said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened to learn of her death. We offer our condolences to her family."

Said Gov. Ben Cayetano: "Hawaii is filled with a tremendous sense of sadness and loss. Hers was a spirit like no other. Through several generations, she served as a powerful force which shaped not only Hawaii, but our nation. The congresswoman displayed a dedication we seldom find. There will never be another Patsy Mink, and our hearts mourn upon her passing."

Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Antone contributed to this report.

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