Dawn Midori (Kaneshiro) Armstrong was born and raised in Honolulu. Her mother, a registered nurse, immigrated from Japan at age five. Her father, the son of sugar cane workers on Maui, was a state employee who rose to prominence through his volunteer efforts working for the preservation of Oahu’s Manoa Valley.
Raised in the gentle cultural environs of that Hawaiian valley, Dawn attended Manoa Valley School and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In all that she does, Dawn reflects the work ethics of her parents and grandparents, as well as the gentle kindness of Hawaii’s “aloha spirit.”
Dawn graduated UH with a degree in early childhood education, and worked in that field for more than twenty years, as both teacher and administrator. After the Armstrongs moved to Oregon in 2001, Dawn started a second career working as a “personal assistant” to seniors, helping them to live independently and acting as a surrogate family member.
She has worked with women, children, and families in Mexico, including many in very deep poverty and health crises. In Guatemala, she has visited facilities that care for homeless seniors, for children, and that feed the local poor. From those experiences, she has gained insight into the cycle of poverty, as well as the failures of well-intended government and private programs.
As first lady, Dawn would like to focus on elder care, veterans’ issues (especially their health care), and on ways of addressing homelessness. Internationally, she would like to find ways to make clean, safe water available.
The Armstrongs are both deeply interested in exploring how America approaches education. They share a sincere respect for the hard work of professional educators, and would like to see communities where learning is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but where children’s different abilities and goals are valued.