TONI LONG, HAWAII '78
Being selected as a Truman Scholar changed my life. It allowed me to finish my B.A. degree at the University of Hawaii and complete a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) degree at UC-Berkeley in 1982. When I graduated from high school in 1964, my family’s and society’s expectation of further education for women was commonly two years of junior college, which I completed. Shortly afterwards, I bought a one-way airline ticket to Honolulu, Hawaii so I could experience living with other cultures within the U.S., but I yearned for a four-year college degree. After working as a legal secretary and then with the State Legislature and State Constitutional Convention, I enrolled in one of the first community college paralegal degree programs--paid for by a Clairol Cosmetics scholarship for women returning to school. In my second year, I enrolled in political science at the University of Hawaii. I was on my way to fulfilling my dream of a B.A. degree.
When I received the Truman Scholarship my excitement was overwhelming. Through another scholarship (likely due to the Truman) I was able to intern with the British Parliament in 1979. During my internship, the British Government fell after a No-Confidence Vote and Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. I campaigned hard for the Labour MP for whom I worked and was a Labour Party Observer while the votes were being counted by hand.
I applied to several graduate and law programs at multiple schools and selected the MPH program at UC-Berkeley. To attend Berkeley had been beyond any dream I could imagine. I went on to have a career as a health care administrator with two University of Washington medical centers, the UW School of Medicine and the UW-operated air ambulance program for the 4-state region of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Simultaneously, I was committed to raising my daughter as a single parent. She was exposed to political marches, the importance of voting and civic involvement, and now shares my passion for that and international travel and diverse cultures as well. Now eight years retired, I am actively involved with a Seattle immigrant rights action group and also volunteer as an employment coach with a nonprofit providing services to low-income and immigrant families. Finally, as a volunteer I have worked on voter registration and numerous political campaigns in Hawaii and Washington State since the mid-1970s.
I was asked what advice I have for other Truman Scholars; I offer two ideas. First, throughout your career, always look for opportunities to mentor and “give forward” to others, especially to those who belong to a protected group, as their journey may be more daunting. Second, I changed career directions and jobs quite often compared to others in my generation. I craved varied experiences. If you identify with this characteristic, learn how to reframe your skills, knowledge and experience so it can transfer to new areas. Don’t be shy about changing focus if you can visualize the connections and reframe them for others.
In conclusion, my current claim to fame may be as the oldest Truman Scholar. If there are others who are in a position to challenge this fact, please let me know. My sincere best wishes to all Truman Scholars. Our country needs your intelligence, passion, civic involvement, and leadership more than ever!