Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ah Quon McElrath - "The Conscience of the Legislature"

Photo: Rep. Mike Magaoay with Ah Quon McElrath and Bill Paty

Ah Quon McElrath, or A.Q., as she was called by those who knew her well, was a formidable figure at the State Legislature.  She passed away on Thursday, December 11, 2008.  She was 92 but would have made 93 on December 15th.  The Honolulu Advertiser covers her life here.  The Honolulu Star-Bulletin coverage is here.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro had just visited A.Q. in the hospital a few days prior to her passing and encouraged her to get well soon as she still had lots of work to do at the State Capitol.  His comments in the Star-Bulletin:

"Although we look at her as being maybe the matriarch of the union movement in Hawaii, she had a bigger constituency, she served the larger community," said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who chairs the House Finance Committee.  "She used her life's energies and talents for the common good. She was a role model for women, the disenfranchised, the underdogs, the have-nots."

Rep. Roy Takumi was also quoted in the Star-Bulletin:

State Rep. Roy Takumi said, "AQ was a constant presence" at every legislative session in his 17 years.  "Every session she would come...and would either be in a mood to share insights or in a mood to scold, berate and chastise all of us.

"When I first got elected, she told me that young legislators make the mistake of trying to help everyone.  she said you have to focus on a few things and do it well.  She took her own advice," Takumi said.  "She focused on whatever she saw as needed at that time, hence her effectiveness and her impact."

Photo: University of Hawaii, Regent Ah Quon McElrath 

Guy Fujimura, ILWU secretary-treasurer, said: "Whether the governor, the legislators or business people, she challenged them to do the right thing, to be the best person they could be, and she would assist them to be that person.  She was always that solid person, the conscience of the union, the conscience of the labor movement, the conscience of the legislators."


Bart said...

Thanks for this salute to AQ. She was probably the person in Hawaii politics who I admired the most.

Perhaps the Legislature can use this next session to honor AQ by passing meaningful healthcare reform even though she is no longer here to lead the charge?

While there is no individual who can fill AQ's shoes, she has taught a lot of us to be bold and persistent in pressing forward for what is right.

I know that includes some legislators.

So stop listening to the distractions and listen to the voice of AQ we all carry inside our heart. We need to rededicate ourselves to the practical struggle for justice and break new ground.

In AQ's memory,


Anonymous said...

The Women's Legislative Caucus recognized the special qualities of Ah Quon McElrath two years ago when we dedicated our Legislative package to her. She was strong enough then to make her way to the Capitol alone and to give a strong speech at our press conference.She was a remarkable woman who always thought of others before herself --she was really a living legend and will be long remembered.

M Lee