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Donna Kim makes history as first Filipina-American Hawaii Senate President

January 16, 2013 3:00pm
Hawaii Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim will make history on Thursday as she is installed as the first Filipina-American State Senate President.

Kim will be replacing Senator Shan Tsutsui who became the Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii.

“It is truly humbling and an honor to be chosen by my fellow Senate colleagues,” Kim told GMA News Online in an email.

Kim hopes to be a role model for Fil-Ams and to show “them that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it.”

As the Hawaii Senate President, Kim wants to focus on job creation and encouraging sustainability, especially because of Hawaii's location, being 2,390 miles from California.

She hopes to achieve food resiliency by "increasing food production and consumption of locally grown food."

She is also aiming for a more transparent government.

“One of the key things for me would be retooling government — how we make government smarter and more efficient,” she said, adding that she will continue to pursue accountability and transparency."

Political career

Kim started her political career when she was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 1982.

She won a special election in 1985 for the Honolulu City Council and served for five years.

Since then she has been chairing the Zoning Committee for 12 years and has been a strong voice for Hawaii for over 30 years.

Filipino heritage

Although not born in the Philippines, Kim thinks that the Fil-Am community is a strong, hard-working community.

“They value the importance of family, hard-work, and a sense of camaraderie. They are proud of both their Filipino and American heritages, and they continue to have strong ties to the Philippines,” she said.

She believes that Filipinos' strong work ethics significantly contributed to the nation’s flourishing economy.

Kim was raised in Kalihi, Hawaii. Her father is Korean while her mother is Spanish-Filipino-Portuguese.

She has visited the Philippines thrice and hopes to come to the country again.

She is also a fan of Filipino food and was taught by her mom recipes which were passed on from her grandfather.

“I enjoy many kinds of Filipino foods. I grew up eating all types of Filipino dishes – from pancit to adobo,” she said.

Philippine politics

As for the rise of American politicians with Filipino heritage, she says this is a testament that Filipinos could assimilate well with the American culture while maintaining their Filipino values.

“They are cognizant and grateful for the many opportunities America has to offer, and it is through those opportunities coupled with their incessant drive to attain the American Dream that cultivates this generation of Filipino-Americans,” she said.

If she had the chance to become a politician in the Philippines, Kim said she would address closing the economic gap between social classes.

“A discrepancy exists between the economic classes in which the gap between the wealthy and the poor is large,” she noted.

Kim also revealed her big plans to represent not just Hawaii in the near future.

“I do aspire to someday expand that representation in Washington D.C., and will consider seeking the US Senate Seat in 2014,” she said.

To aspiring politicians, Kim said they should join their local communities, volunteer for causes, and take a stand on issues they feel strongly about.

“Government is only as good as its people. So get involved in any way possible,” she said adding, “No matter what area in politics you wish to enter, keep a strong work ethic, cultivate a good and honest character, and never let your bad days cloud the sunny ones ahead.” - VVP, GMA News
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