Amy Agbayani says people sometimes expect her to be a wild-eyed extremist.
However, she's calm by nature. She believes it's only reasonable to give voice to individuals who aren’t being heard as a result of their culture, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation.
Dr. Agbayani, the first-ever Chair of Hawaii's Civil Rights Commission, oversees more than than 20 diversity programs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Born in the Philippines, she came to Hawaii as an East-West Center student, and stayed. I met her during the 1970s, when she was running an organization she co-founded, Operation Manong, helping young Filipino immigrants adjust to their new lives and deal with prejudice, usually coming from local-born Filipinos.
Her interest in social justice led to decades of involvement in politics. She was Honorary Chair of Neil Abercrombie's successful run for Governor this year.
PBS Hawaii's weekly program "Long Story Short" will feature Dr. Agbayani tomorrow night (Tues., Nov. 30, 2010, 7:30 pm). Our conversation took place before the outcome of the Governor's election was known.