Remembering Senator Daniel Inouye
December 22, 2012
Senator 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 Senator 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 Senator 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 Hawai'i was teaching those folks in DC the meaning of integrity and dignity.
I remember Senator Inouye giving this young staffer of his colleague, Senator 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 Hawai'i and country were remade by Senator Inouye and his comrades through sheer force of will into a more just society.
Governor Abercrombie aptly quoted the Bible in concluding his remarks: Well done, good and faithful servant. Yes, well done, Senator Inouye. We can honor your life best by continuing the fight into the coming generations.