Patsy Mink: A true champion of the people
Hawai'i lost a true champion of the people and a pioneer leader of the Democratic Party yesterday with the death of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.
The intrigue that will swirl around her death in the middle of a re-election campaign might temporarily overshadow the larger story of her legacy. But in time, Mink will be remembered for what she was: An ardent, forceful and committed believer in causes such as education, peace, women's rights and social justice.
Never a team player, Mink carved out a local and national reputation for herself on the strength of her convictions and her determination not to be shoved aside by competing political interests.
Perhaps her greatest contribution was her prime sponsorship of the so-called "Title IX" Education amendment that sought to guarantee equal federal support for women in academics and athletics.
The most profound result of that law was the rise of women's athletics, from high schools through colleges and universities. Many credit Title IX with jump-starting a boom in women's athletics that led to today's popular and successful professional women's leagues in basketball, soccer and other sports.
Mink's contributions to the peace movement are also well-recognized. Many remember her 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in Oregon. It appeared to be a quixotic bid for attention, but it was hardly that.
Mink and other anti-war Democrats had become concerned that leading Democratic contender George McGovern had lost his focus on opposition to the Vietnam war as the possibility of his nomination became more and more real.
The Oregon presidential bid was an effort to get the party and the candidates back on the anti-war message. And despite her meager 2 percent showing in that primary, Mink always felt that the effort did return the anti-war movement to the forefront of the Democratic nomination process.
In many ways, Mink was a consummate public servant. She served in the Hawai'i Legislature, on the Honolulu City Council and in Congress from 1965 through 1976 and again, from 1990 through the present. She ran unsuccessfully, but honorably, for mayor, governor and president of the United States.
In a day when politics appears driven by polls and focus groups, Mink stood out as a politician who was true, first and foremost, to herself and the people she served.
Hawai'i will miss her greatly.