(HawaiiNewsNow) - We have been recognizing YWCA Leader Honorees all week long. For decades, Honolulu councilwoman Ann Kobayashi has a been tireless advocate for women and girls for civil and human rights in Hawaii. Ramsay Wharton sat down with her and describes how this dedicated politician has made her mark and a difference in Hawaii.
Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi has spent most of her life fighting for her community. For decades, she's been a staunch and tireless advocate for women and girls, senior citizens and for civil and human rights in Hawaii.
"That's why I ran for office," said Kobayashi during an interview at the Moilili Community Center that she's proud to support. "It was to help children, to help seniors. People who couldn't make campaign contributions. So those were the people who I wanted to represent."
It is no surprise that this former State Senator (1980-1994) and Honolulu Mayoral candidate (2004, 2008) is being recognized as one of the YWCA's 2012 Leader Honorees. It's recognition from a non-profit group that she knows very well.
"I'm just so humbled by it," said Kobayashi. "It is a great honor for me. You know, when I was little, when I was five years old, I used to go swimming at the pool at the Central Richards Street YMCA. And that's where I learned to dance as a teenager. I belonged to the Y Teen group and I used to spend hours at the YWCA and then to get this honor, it's like the culmination of a lifetime of doing stuff at the YMCA."
Kobayashi says she learned early on from her family about the importance of giving back and respecting others.
"My father was really my mentor," reflected Kobayashi. "He always did stuff with the community and my mother too."
Her father, was a dentist, but didn't tell Kobayashi until she was 50 years old about the discrimination he faced throughout the years.
"He never talked about this until I was older so I wouldn't be affected by it, because he didn't want me to be bitter or have anger and not like people," she said. "He had a really hard time. He couldn't live in the dormitory, because he was Asian. He couldn't swim in the at certain beaches because he was Asian because this was the 1930's."
But Kobayashi had a great respect for him because he always made sure she never discriminated against others. A trait friends say has served her well in politics.
"He always liked everyone and always taught us to respect everyone, whether they're washing dishes you know, or President of a Bank," said Kobayashi. "You treat everyone with the same respect and you know I've always remembered that."
And Kobayashi juggled family and career to help break the glass ceiling in Hawaii politics.
"It was very difficult. And you know and its harder for women, because I came from a traditional Asian family where I had to cook dinner, do the laundry, clean the house. So I'd be at a hearing, rush home, cook dinner, rush back to the hearing. And it was also difficult to raise money because people wouldn't donate to women...you know in office, and it was hard to get our voices heard so we all got together, the women in the legislature and formed a caucus, and we accomplished a lot."
The Legislative Women's Caucus set laws for spouse abuse shelters, and programs for domestic violence prevention, early education and for seniors.
"She's always had this passion, and for some strange reason she's always wanted to help the underdog," joked Kobayashi's longtime friend Amy Hirano.
Hirano admires Kobayashi's gentle exterior that holds the tiger within.
"She's a little bit tenacious when she gets on an issue that she truly believes in," smiled Hirano. "Some people call her obstinate, I call her tenacious," she laughed. "She's like this opihi that sticks to the issue and won't give it up."
A true passion in Kobayashi that's made a difference for many in Hawaii.
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi:
Ann Kobayashi's Resume
Education: Roosevelt High School
Employment: Honolulu City & County Councilmember
Honolulu City & County Councilmember
Office of the Governor
State Capitol, Room 409
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Executive Assistant to the Mayor
City and County of Honolulu
1994 - 1997
Hawaii State Senator - 1980-1994
Senator Wadsworth Yee's Office - 1975-1979
Senator Eureka Forbes' Office - 1971-1974
Awards and Community Service:
· Received Legislator of the Year award from numerous organizations
· Abilities Unlimited - Board of Director
· CUSO of Hawaii, Inc. - Board of Director
· Hawaii Lupus Foundation - Board of Governors
· Hawaiian Lifeguard Association - Board of Director
· Japanese Women's Society Foundation - Board of Director
· March of Dimes - Board of Director
· Shufu Society - Advisor
· United Japanese Society of Hawaii - Board of Director
· Aloha United Way - Board of Director
· American Cancer Society
· American Red Cross - Board of Director
· Arthritis Foundation, Hawaii Chapter
· Ballet Theatre of Hawaii - Board of Director
· Boys and Girls Club of Honolulu - Board of Director
· Catholic Charities - Board of Directors
· Domestic Violence Clearinghouse & Legal Hotline - Board of Director
· Elected Women of Hawaii
· Fresh Start - Board of Director
· Frank DeLima's Student Enrichment Program - Board of Director
· Hawaii Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse and Controlled Substances - Advisory Board
· Hawaii Dental Association, Women's Auxiliary
· Hawaii Heart Association - Residential Chair
· Hawaii State Law Enforcement Association - Past Member
· Honolulu Police Commission - Past Member
· International Association of Chiefs of Police - Past Member
· Juvenile Diabetes Foundation - Board of Director
· Keiki Heart Foundation - Board of Director
· Lyon Arboretum Manoa Neighborhood Board - Past Chair and Member
· Manoa Paniolo Pop Warner Football Team - Board of Director
· Moiliili Community Center - Past Board of Director
· National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, Hawaii Chapter - Honorary Board Member
· Nature Conservancy of Hawaii
· Pacific Conference
· Seagull Schools - Past Board of Director
· Senate Women's Caucus - Chair
· Soroptimist International of Honolulu - Board of Directors
· South Young Street Residents Association
· Waikiki Business and Professional Women
· Western Legislative Conference - Pacific States and Territories Ocean
· Windward Spouse Abuse Shelter - Board of Director
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