Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye has died.
He had been at a Bethesda, Md. hospital for the last week, being treated for a respiratory ailment following a fainting spell. He was 88.
According to his staff, his last word was “Aloha.”
The senator succumbed to respiratory complications at about noon Hawaii time at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Inouye was first brought to George Washington University Hospital on Dec. 6 after fainting in a Senate office. He was transferred Dec. 9 to Walter Reed.
Doctors were reportedly trying to regulate his oxygen intake. They noted the senator had a portion of his left lung removed in the 1960s after being misdiagnosed with lung cancer. Inouye had been using an oxygen supplement for several months, and recently been seen using a wheelchair at the U.S. Capitol to reduce the strain on his knees.
Inouye’s legacy in Hawaii history looms large. He was recognized with a national Medal of Honor after losing his arm during World War II. He was elected to the U.S. Senate nine times. He was a key figure in the congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals.
As the longest-serving member of the Senate, the Hawaii Democrat was president pro tempore — third in line to the presidency. He the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. history and recently had served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.
He was also the second longest serving U.S. Senator in history after Robert Byrd and was the second-oldest current U.S. senator, after 88 year-old Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Inouye was the first Japanese-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first in the U.S. Senate.
Before his death, Inouye announced that he planed to run for a record tenth term in 2016, when he would have been 92 years old.
He also said, “I have told my staff and I have told my family that when the time comes, when you question my sanity or question my ability to do things physically or mentally, I don’t want you to hesitate, do everything to get me out of here, because I want to make certain the people of Hawaii get the best representation possible.”
Asked recently how he wanted to be remembered, the senator said: “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”
For more than a half-century, he was a staunch advocate for the Hawaiian Islands and was noted for directing billions of dollars in federal money to Hawaii. He was respected by Hawaii constituents, his fellow lawmakers and Washington insiders.
Daniel Ken Inouye was born Sept. 7, 1924 in Honolulu. His parents were a Japanese-American jewelry clerk Hyotaro and Kame. He said he was named after biblical prophet Daniel and the Rev. Daniel Klinefelter, a Methodist minister who helped raised the orphaned Kame.
Inouye’s parents met at church and taught Japanese and Methodist lessons of honor and discipline. Inouye and his younger sister May and younger brothers John and Robert spent their youth in Moiilili and McCully. He graduated from McKinley High School.
Like many in Hawaii, the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor shaped his life. Although he aspired to be a doctor, Inouye volunteered for the Army and served in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Inouye, a sergeant when he landed in Europe, was promoted to first lieutenant as the nisei unit was stationed in Italy and France.
In April 1945, Inouye moved his platoon against German troops near San Terenzo, Italy. Inouye crawled up a hillside and tossed two hand grenades into a German machine-gun bunker. He then charged a second machine-gun nest and was shot in the stomach. However, he kept charging until his right arm was destroyed by a grenade.
Inouye wrote about the incident in his 1967 autobiography “Journey to Washington.” He relayed that he pried the grenade out of his useless right hand and threw it at the German gunman, killing him. He continued firing his gun until he was shot in the right leg and knocked down the hillside.
Undeterred, Inouye and his men kept attacking and eventually took control of the ridge.
Later, he was discharged as a captain and nominated for the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, but instead received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and a Bronze Star.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton recognized Inouye and 21 other Asian-American veterans with the Medal of Honor.
Inouye’s rehabilitation took two years and he learned how to function without his right arm. Although he was fitted for a prosthetic arm, it was uncomfortable and he discarded it.
With his goal of a medical career over, Inouye used his military benefits to take law classes at the University of Hawaii and began eyeing political life. He later went to law school at George Washington University.
At UH, he met Margaret Shinobu Awamura, a speech instructor, and asked her to marry him on their second date.
After college, Inouye worked with John Burns, a former police captain who went on to serve as Hawaii governor. In 1954, Burns urged Inouye to run for the Territorial House.
Inouye’s win was part of the 1954 Democratic takeover of the Legislature, kicking off more than 50 years of party rule in Hawaii. A year before Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, he was elected to the Territorial Senate. Shortly after, Inouye won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He was 38 in 1962 when he defeated Republican Benjamin Dillingham to become a U.S. senator.
Inouye and his close friend Lyndon B. Johnson joined forces, as they supporting the war in Vietnam and the president’s “Great Society” fight against poverty and racial injustice.
At the Democratic National Convention in 1968 in Chicago, Inouye gave the keynote address.
“This is my country,” he was quoted as saying. “Many of us have fought hard to say that. Many are struggling today from Harlem to Da Nang that they may say it with conviction.”
By the 1970s, Inouye had built a reputation for integrity and played a key role on the Senate committee investigating the Watergate burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters and its aftermath, which lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
“Watergate is not a partisan tragedy,” he said. “It is a national tragedy.”
In the late 1980s, he chaired a Senate committee investigation of the Iran-Contra affair, a scheme by the Reagan administration to trade arms for American hostages in Iran and use some of the proceeds from arms sales to finance rebellion against the Nicaraguan government.
In 1992, Inouye’s Republican opponent, state Sen. Rick Reed of Maui, released a tape recording of Inouye’s longtime hairstylist, Lenore Kwock, that claimed Inouye pressured her into sex in 1975 and sexually harassed her. Inouye denied the claims and won re-election with 54 percent of the vote. It was the lowest margin of victory in his career.
The senator’s ability to bring federal money back to his home state is remarkable. He stood up for the sugar, pineapple and shipping industries, for highways, airports and harbors, for the East-West Center, for University of Hawaii and for the military. He helped shape Hawaii as the most important strategic location for the military in the Pacific.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Inouye was able to deliver federal money no matter which political party controlled Congress or the White House. He also used his influence to change federal policy to benefit Hawaii, promote civil rights and preserve native cultures.
Inouye also guided the process that led President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to issue an apology and provide $20,000 to each of the survivors of Japanese internment during World War II. That injustice had stayed with at Inouye for more than 40 years.
Along with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, Inouye spearheaded a resolution signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 formally apologizing for the U.S. government’s role in the 1893 overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii.
Following his death, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs noted Inouye played an instrumental role in the introduction and passage of legislation positively impacting Native Hawaiian well-being:
* Native Hawaiian Education Act, resulting in a host of programs focused on improving educational opportunities and outcomes of Native Hawaiian preschool to post-secondary learners.
* Native Hawaiian Health Care Act, resulting in programs targeting Native Hawaiian communities and the specific health issues experienced in those communities.
* An array of federal programs and grants aimed at improving Native Hawaiian housing, job training, business development, childcare, and the perpetuation of traditional cultural practices.
* PL 103-150, Apology Bill, resulting in an acknowledgment of the United States’ role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
* Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, resulting in thousands of Native Hawaiian remains and funerary objects being returned from museums and federal institutions and reinterred in Hawaii.
Inouye’s wife, Maggie, died at age 81 in March 2006. “She was my inspiration and all that I have accomplished could not have been done without her at my side,” he said at the time. “We were a team.”
Inouye is survived by son Ken, daughter-in-law Jessica, granddaughter Maggie, step-daughter Jennifer Hirano and his second wife Irene Hirano, the former president and chief executive of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, whom he married in May 2008.
Medal of Honor citation:
SECOND LIEUTENANT DANIEL K. INOUYE, UNITED STATES ARMY, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
President Barack Obama:
Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye. The second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union. In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve. But it was his incredible bravery during World War II – including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor – that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend, Danny Inouye. From his earliest days in public service to his last, he inspired others to reach for the American dream – because that’s exactly what he did.
No matter what barrier was in his way, Danny shattered it. He was the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in history and the first Japanese-American to serve in the House of Representatives and Senate. He was a soldier, a Medal of Honor recipient and a hero. But despite the accolades from a lifetime of service, he never lost his humility and compassion.
Danny was an icon in his native state of Hawaii and a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, minorities, and women throughout the country. He spent his life working for a brighter future, and we are all better off for it. I will always cherish his friendship and guidance in the Senate. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Irene, and all those whose lives he touched.
Governor Neil Abercrombie
HONOLULU – Governor Neil Abercrombie today shared the following remarks upon learning of the passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye:
“The Senator gave everything. He knew the true meaning of ‘Go for Broke.’ He left us with a legacy of honor and service to the people of Hawaii, to the people of this nation, without parallel.
“The Senator recently made clear to me his love and affection for us all. He said: ‘I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did okay.’ I’m sure we all believe he did okay.
“Our responsibility is to not just carry on but carry through on his total devotion and commitment to Hawaii and its values. Our thoughts, hearts and deepest aloha go out to his wife, Irene; son, Ken; and the entire Inouye family.”
Mayor Billy Kenoi
Mayor Billy Kenoi and the people of the County of Hawai‘i mourn the passing of United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a war hero, distinguished president pro-tempore of the United States Senate, and an effective advocate for the people of Hawai‘i for more than five decades.
“Beyond the titles, beyond the power and the influence, what most stands out is his thoughtfulness, his kindness and how he treated everyone with respect and aloha,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I will never forget that lesson.”
Many of Hawai‘i’s leaders walked through Senator Inouye’s office – including Mayor Kenoi, who worked as an intern in Inouye’s office in the summer of 1992. “He gave me opportunity, and he supported me every step of the way,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I look to him with the same respect, honor and love that I feel for my parents.”
“Senator Inouye was a friend and a mentor to generations of public servants. He always encouraged all of us to fight for what we believe in, to stand up for what is right, and most importantly, to give everything we have to serve the people of Hawai‘i,” Mayor Kenoi said. “He taught all of us how to conduct ourselves as public servants.”
Senator Inouye was a leader who embodied the best of yesterday, who served our community the best he could every day, and who was always mindful of tomorrow, of future generations, Mayor Kenoi said.
“He was a tireless advocate for the people of Hawai‘i. Takako and I, our family, and our community are honored and privileged to have had him as a part of our lives. All our aloha to his wife Irene, his son Ken and the entire Inouye family.”
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka
It is very difficult for me to bid aloha to my good friend, colleague, and brother Dan Inouye. Senator Inouye was a true patriot and American hero in every sense. His legacy is not only the loving family he leaves behind, it can be seen in every mile of every road in Hawaii, in every nature preserve, in every facility that makes Hawaii a safer place.
Dan fulfilled his dream of creating a better Hawaii. He gave us access to the resources and facilities of the mainland states took for granted. He leaves behind him a list of accomplishments unlikely to ever be paralleled.
Tomorrow will be the first day since Hawaii became a state in 1959 that Dan Inouye will not be representing us in Congress. But every child born in Hawaii will learn of Dan Inouye, a man who changed our islands forever.
I join all of the people of Hawaii in praying for his wife Irene, his son Ken and daughter-in-law Jessica, his step-daughter Jennifer, and his granddaughter Maggie, who brought him so much joy in this life and carries his legacy forward.
Dan, my dear friend and colleague. You will be missed in Washington as much as you will be missed in Hawaii. Rest in peace.
Congresswoman and Senator elect Mazie Hirono
I join the people of Hawaii in mourning the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. This is a tremendous loss for Hawaii and our nation, and I am deeply saddened and shocked my longtime friend is no longer with us.
History will remember Dan Inouye as a decorated war hero – a Medal of Honor recipient – and monumental figure in Hawaii’s statehood. Throughout his life, he fought and sacrificed for the ideals of freedom and justice. His record speaks for itself. Despite his significant accomplishments, Dan Inouye never forgot where he came from. His values, work, and sense of honor were strongly rooted in Hawaii, and he pursued his vision for America with humility and bipartisanship. It has been an honor and privilege to serve with him in Congress, and I will work to see that we continue to build on the strong foundation he has left Hawaii and the United States of America.
“My heart goes out to his wife Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., and the many family, friends, colleagues, and citizens who will miss him dearly. While we lost a great public servant and human being today, his memory is guaranteed to live on for generations to come.”
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa
“I am greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Hawaii’s beloved Senator Daniel K. Inouye. It is a tremendous loss to our state. My thoughts are with his wife Irene, his son Kenny and his family, and all of Senator Inouye’s staff, who he treated as his extended family.
Senator Daniel K. Inouye dedicated his entire adult life to service to America and Hawaii. As a volunteer soldier fighting in Europe during World War II, as a Territorial legislator, and as a member of Congress, he never wavered in his commitment to placing the needs of the people he served before his own.
His bravery in battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His focus on Hawaii’s needs brought countless projects to fruition, including Hawaii’s East West Center. His Congressional career earned him a national reputation through his service on the Watergate commission; chairing the special committee on the Iran-Contra investigation; and serving as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as President Pro Tem of the Senate, which placed him third in line of succession to the presidency.
But beyond his well-deserved professional accolades, I am proud to have called Dan Inouye a friend and a mentor. His professional generosity and personal kindness have meant the world to me. I attribute a great deal of the success I have enjoyed to his willingness to share with a smile, and to guide with a gentle word. I will miss him, and I join our state and our nation in mourning the loss of a great American and a wonderful man.”
Congresswoman elect Tulsi Gabbard
“I am deeply saddened at the passing of Senator Inouye. He is a true American hero, sacrificing in battle and breaking the barriers of prejudice that existed during World War II. After serving so admirably and bravely, Dan Inouye returned to Hawaii and began his distinguished career as an elected servant of the people.
“Senator Inouye was a true servant-leader who inspired so many to step up and serve Hawaii and our nation. The fact his last word was “Aloha” speaks volumes about this iconic leader.
“He has and will continue to be an inspiration and mentor to me and countless others around the world. I extend my deepest aloha to his family and all who were touched by his life and legacy.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
My dear friend, Senator Daniel Inouye, the Senior Senator from Hawaii, was one of the finest men I have known in my lifetime. He was one of the most distinguished senators this body has ever seen. He was a soldier of incomparable bravery and a man of uncommon decency, and it is with deep sadness that I mark his passing.
As a young man, Senator Inouye demonstrated the kind of bravery that challenges us all to rise to a higher standard. Although Senator Inouye and other Japanese-Americans were exempt from the draft, he volunteered to fight for our flag.
He volunteered, even though the families of so-called Nisei soldiers were imprisoned in American internment camps. Senator Inouye was wounded in battle saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. For his acts of valor, he received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.
Senator Inouye’s son once asked him why – after being called ‘enemy aliens’ and after being held in internment camps – he and the members of the famed 442nd fought so heroically. Senator Inouye told his son that he fought ‘for the children.’ For children, there could be no finer role model than Senator Inouye.
Today, my thoughts are with his family, including his wife Irene, son Ken, daughter-in-law Jessica, step-daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Maggie. Their loss is the nation’s, as today we all lost a pioneer and a noble soul.
State Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom:
The death of Senator Daniel Inouye today is a tremendous loss to our state and our nation. He was larger than life and had an impact far beyond his beloved Island State. In his own life, he shattered many barriers, more than deserved the Medal of Honor, and always fought for his positions and for Hawaii.
He was a true hero and was the foundation of Hawaii’s economy. His ability to get things done is legendary, unsurpassed, and he always crossed partisan lines.
When my father, a WWII combat veteran died and was buried in Punchbowl National Cemetery, Senator Inouye sent me a warm, personal note. He also sent me notes on my election to public office and we had the opportunity to discuss our different views at the State Capitol.
He was always a gentleman and someone who will be sorely missed. Hawaii is very fortunate to have had his leadership. His legacy will continue for the ages.
My personal sympathy for Senator Inouye’s family.
Hawaii State Senate President Shan Tsutsui:
Today, we have lost a true American hero. Sen. Dan Inouye served the people of Hawaii and our country with great dignity and honor. A true statesman, his lifelong work has left an indelible mark on Hawaii and he leaves behind a legacy that we will never forget. We express our heartfelt condolences to the Inouye ohana and our thoughts and prayers are with them.
University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood:
This was an extraordinary man with a legacy which will never be surpassed. His lifelong devotion to the university of his home land is well known. He was our most distinguished graduate and we are the grateful beneficiaries of the generosity he showed to us for decades. His longstanding support for the university and its new programs contributed immensely to the university’s international reputation and helped make it one of the premier research institutions in the nation and the world. His contributions to us simply cannot be measured.
Sen. Daniel Inouye graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1950 and in 2010 established the Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals at his alma mater.
On a personal note, our hearts go out to his family and his devoted staff and we grieve along with them. Senator Inouye was a man of great compassion and dignity. It was a privilege for me to have known him. He left his mark on the world and changed the lives of many for the better. We are grateful that he passed our way and left his legacy, and we will always be in his debt. And now we must go forward as he would have expected us to do.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki:
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye stood among the ‘greatest’ of our ‘Greatest Generation.’ Recipient of the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest award for valor; distinguished service as a long-serving member of the U.S. Senate; and role model to generations of Americans of Asian-Pacific Islander heritage, especially those growing up in his beloved Hawaii, Sen. Inouye made public service a noble and honorable calling. Dan Inouye’s courage on the battlefield and in Congress, his passion for making a difference in the lives of average Americans, and his intense modesty spoke volumes about a remarkable American, who embodied the bedrock values and quiet virtues of our nation. On behalf of America’s 22 million Veterans, I salute the memory of a brave man, a great patriot, a devoted public servant, an unwavering benefactor to servicemembers and veterans of every generation, and my friend and mentor. I extend my deepest personal condolences to the entire Inouye family.
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald:
On behalf of the Hawaii State Judiciary, I extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Inouye and the Senator’s family. Senator Inouye dedicated his life to serving the people of Hawaii and our nation. He was a decorated war hero, a great statesman, and a tireless advocate for equality and justice. His passing is a great loss.
Kamanaopono Crabbe, chief executive officer of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs:
“Pau ka ʻoe hana, pio ka ʻoe ahi, pala ka ʻoe ʻahui. Your work is done, your fire is extinguished, your [banana] bunch has ripened.
Senator Inouye will be remembered as a giant among men, a larger-than-life war hero whose greatest feats took place off of the battlefield, throughout a lifetime of public service. The Native Hawaiian people will remember him as our ally and champion, a man who spent decades shepherding law after law to honor America’s trust obligations and improve the health, education, and well-being of Hawaii’s first people.
During an October 2012 meeting of Native Hawaiian organizations and constituents, the Senator made his last request to OHA — to assist in uniting Native Hawaiian organizations to better serve our people and community. To honor his wish and his legacy, we intend to continue our efforts to build strategic partnerships that empower Hawaiians and strengthen Hawaii.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at OHA go out to Senator Inouye’s wife Irene, his son Ken, his daughter-in-law Jessica, and his grand-daughter Maggie.
Colette Machado, chairperson of the Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs:
Haliʻa Aloha — fond and cherished memories of Senator Daniel Inouye as my good friend and a true advocate for Native Hawaiians. I consider myself enormously blessed to have known Senator Inouye and to have had an opportunity to work with him on Native Hawaiian rights and recognition. He helped launch the Hokulea and bring Kahoolawe home to the people of Hawaii. He worked tirelessly for resources to heal, educate and house Native Hawaiians. He will always be remembered as a great statesman of Hawaii and the U.S. as a whole. Love and aloha from our ohana to his ohana.
Blair D. Collis, Bishop Museum President and CEO:
The State of Hawaii and the nation has lost a man whose loyalty to country and love of his island home was truly unequalled. Bishop Museum will always remember U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye as a compassionate man who possessed an unwavering commitment to the culture and history Hawaii and its native people.
The Senator’s support of the Museum spanned decades. Through his visionary leadership, key measures, such as the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program and the Native Hawaiian Education Act, enabled the creation of lasting programs and publications that ensured the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions.
His commitment to education led to the establishment of the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center in 2005. And his dedication to Native Hawaiian culture and history resulted in innovative partnerships and programs that ultimately led to the renovation and restoration of Hawaiian Hall in 2009. Were it not for Senator Inouye, Bishop Museum would not be the community and educational institution that it is today.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and staff of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, we extend our deepest condolences to the Senator’s family and extend our heartfelt gratitude for all he has done for those who call this wonderful place home.
David Chang, Hawaii Republican Party chairman:
The Hawaii Republican Party and I would like to extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Senator Inouye’s family and friends. With his passing, Hawaii lost a great champion.
From his medal of honor in World War II to his years of public service, Senator Inouye’s heart and mind were always with his home state of Hawaii.
He will be leaving behind a legacy of selfless service that will always be remembered.
Aloha Oe, Senator Daniel K. Inouye.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis:
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye was a remarkable man and a special friend of the National Park Service. He was a champion of civil rights and social justice. His passion for those causes served as the foundation for his work to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of historic, cultural and natural landscapes which are now cared for by the employees and volunteers of National Park Service for the future of Hawaii and the United States of America.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye came home today, home for his final rest.
Audrey and I joined our fellow citizens at our State Capitol this evening to pay our respects and bid Sen. Inouye aloha. The sky above was a deep blue; a gentle tradewind blew from beautiful mountains through the Rotunda to Iolani Palace, where his political career began almost 60 years ago in the Territorial House. As his casket entered, the mood was solemn but not somber, sad but uplifting.
Each of the speakers reflected on Sen. Inouye’s larger-than-life life, but also added their own personal remembrances. And I was struck that the mark of a person like him is how many lives he touched in a very personal way.
I remember my parents gifting me a book on the day I became an adult – Journey to Washington – and feeling in his story the first pangs of inspiration to my own path. I remember watching the Watergate hearings in college on the East Coast and feeling so fiercely proud that a son of Hawaii was teaching those folks in DC the meaning of integrity and dignity.
I remember Sen. Inouye giving this young staffer of his colleague, Sen. Spark Matsunaga, more than the time of day to encourage me in my own political career. And I remember feeling so humbled to join the delegation a few decades later and to learn from the master at work.
Of course, we disagreed later over how to ensure Hawaii’s representation in the Senate in a post-Inouye world, and that cost me dearly. But somehow none of that mattered tonight; it just seeped away in reflecting on a remarkable person.
We mourn not just the passing of a life but of an era. A time in which our Hawaii and country were remade by Sen. Inouye and his comrades through sheer force of will into a more just society.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie aptly quoted the Bible in concluding his remarks: Well done, good and faithful servant. Yes, well done, Sen. Inouye. We can honor your life best by continuing the fight into the coming generations.
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Senator Daniel K. Inouye at the Democratic Grand Rally in Hilo November 1, 2010.