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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/1824/

Initial Interest in Law

But when I went to the University of Hawaii and I learned that I was given a scholarship because of Title IX, and I thought I ended up studying to be a Japanese English interpreter.

That's what I was planning to do. I was thinking, Oh, I think I want to go to the United Nations and be a Japanese English interpreter. But as I progressed in law school, I started thinking, you know - I'm sorry - as I progressed in college, I started thinking, I don't really just want to interpret what other people are saying.

I think I want to have a voice and also to give other people a voice, especially when I learned about Title IX and how this one Japanese-American woman congressperson was able to make such a big difference in the lives of so many people, including me. And I learned about the power of the law.

Also when I was a junior, one of my friends who played volleyball for the University of Hawaii and was the Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the University of Hawaii, started law school.

And I remember thinking, wow, athletes can go to law school. And that's when I started thinking, I think I might consider it. And but it wasn't until my senior year in college that I seriously considered applying to law school.


Hawaii Honolulu law Oahu Patsy Takemoto Mink Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 United States United States Representative universities University of Hawaii at Mānoa

Date: July 14, 2022

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Lana Kobayashi

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

Interviewee Bio

Sabrina Shizue McKenna was born on October 7, 1957, in Tokyo, Japan, to a Japanese mother and an American father. Being half-Japanese, McKenna struggled with feeling either “too Japanese” or “too white.” Justice McKenna’s life was drastically impacted in 1972, when Title IX was passed. Title IX allowed McKenna to receive a scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii and play basketball. During her time at the university, she came to terms with her sexuality.

McKenna believes her sexual orientation might have altered her career path. After graduating from law school and working for law firms, McKenna became a law professor. Instead of running for government office, she became a judge. However, McKenna’s path to becoming a judge was not a smooth one. It wasn’t until 2011 that she was appointed to her current position as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. Justice McKenna's story shows that members of the LGBTQ community can have successful and meaningful lives. (October 2022)

 

*This is one of the main projects completed by The Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program intern each summer, which the Japanese American Bar Association and the Japanese American National Museum have co-hosted.

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