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May 06, 2024

Trailblazing U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono talks about her life and work in ABA Speaker Series program

CHICAGO, May 6, 2024 — In honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the American Bar Association Presidential Speaker Series features Sen. Mazie Hirono in a wide-ranging conversation focusing on Hirono’s remarkable life and work as described in her book, “Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story.”

Hirono, a trailblazing public servant and advocate, will be interviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Jill Otake of the District of Hawaii. The program, co-sponsored by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, can be viewed at 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 9, online. No advance registration is required.

Raised on a rice farm in rural Japan and immigrating to the United States at the age of 7, Hirono, who could not speak English upon arriving in the U.S., rose to become Hawaii’s first female senator and the country’s first Asian American female senator. Throughout her career, Hirono has been a fierce advocate for civil rights, women’s rights and reproductive freedom, sustainable development and the Hawaiian community whose voices are not often heard in Congress. Hirono serves as an important and singular voice on issues facing Asian American communities. In the wake of escalating anti-Asian hate that occurred during the pandemic, Hirono introduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, legislation signed into law to help communities combat that hate and violence.

Beginning her legal career as a prosecutor at both the state and federal level, Otake was sworn in as a U.S. district judge for the District of Hawaii in August 2018. Prior to joining the bench, Otake was a fellow of the Hawaii State Bar Association’s Leadership Institute and co-president of the Asian Bar Association of Washington. She was a volunteer attorney for Volunteer Legal Services Hawai῾i and a mentor for Hawaii Women Lawyers.

The ABA Presidential Speaker Series, an initiative of ABA President Mary Smith, is a collection of diverse virtual conversations with globally recognized figures, spotlighting trailblazers and thinkers shaping our collective future. Under the theme “Lifting Our Voices, Charting the Future,” these fireside chats promote dialogue, civility and exposure to diverse viewpoints, innovative ideas and career insights.

Previous episodes featured Ivo H. Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and current chief executive officer of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (view here); civil rights icon Dolores Huerta (view here); Native American women “firsts” including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (view here); experts on artificial intelligence from the ABA Task Force on Law and Artificial Intelligence on how AI will affect the legal landscape (view here); Martin Scorsese, Academy Award-winning director, producer, screenwriter and director of the film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” along with Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, principal chief of the Osage Nation (view here); former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, co-chairs of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy, discussing “Democracy in Peril” (view here); former Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier and former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault discussing “The Business of Democracy” in a special Black History Month program (view here); and former U.S. treasurer and chair of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Rosie Rios (view here).

Future speakers in the series will include:

  • “A Conversation with Pinterest CEO Bill Ready and CLO Wanji Walcott” moderated by Donna Zarcone, independent corporate director and former CEO. Ready has been chief executive officer and a director on Pinterest’s board since June 2022. He previously held positions at Google, PayPal and McKinsey. Walcott joined Pinterest as chief legal, business affairs officer and corporate secretary in 2022 and oversees the ethics and compliance, legal, corporate affairs, public policy and trust and safety teams at the company. Walcott has also worked at Discover Financial and PayPal. Topics will include the evolution of Pinterest’s strategy and its vision for the future, how artificial intelligence is impacting Pinterest and technology companies, the working relationship between a CEO and CLO and how lawyers can pursue a career path in the corporate sector. (June 6, 3 p.m. EST)

Additional programs will be announced. Fostering civic dialogue and highlighting differing perspectives and experiences, these special programs are free to ABA members and the public. More information on the Presidential Speaker Series can be found at

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