I loved Lillian Kimura. I loved her passion for pursuing social justice. As an ardent advocate of the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s, she interacted with civil rights icons like Dorothy Height, and Lillian brought that attitude for change to JACL.
I loved Lillian because she defied gender stereotypes about women in leadership roles by first failing to be elected as JACL president in 1980 before prevailing in 1992.
I loved Lillian’s flamboyance. I recall how she would show up at JACL conventions wearing fashionable hats and then proceed to back up that fashion statement with authoritative and compelling statements on the convention floor.
I loved Lillian for her wisdom and advice. Lillian is the person who persuaded me in a not-so-gentle way to apply for a position on the JACL staff in 1978. Through the years, she was a wonderful mentor and friend.
I loved Lillian for her caring and concern. She once told me that she gave to street people because they, too, needed to be acknowledged with some sense of dignity restored.
I don’t think Bill Hosokawa would ever have referred to Lillian as a “Quiet American.” Hers was a voice at every table she sat. She did so because she knew she had to leave an impression in representing all of us. No one did it quite like Lillian, and we are all better for it.