Washinton Honors Late Sen. Inouye

 

January 2014

 

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The late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) – one of the SIU’s closest friends and allies – was honored in Washington recently, culminating in him posthumously receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

 

During a November gala at the Library of Congress on the eve of the Medal of Freedom ceremony, family, friends and colleagues of Inouye gathered to celebrate the man and his life. Among the attendees were SIU President Michael Sacco, Inouye’s widow Irene, his son Ken and various members of Congress. Inouye died Dec. 17, 2012 at the age of 88.

 

“There’s an old saying in Washington: Politics has a short memory and Washington, D.C., has a short memory. When, you’re gone, you’re gone,” said Ken Inouye said during the gala. “But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Look at everyone gathered here tonight to remember and appreciate my dad.”

 

 Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa), had a good reason for why Inouye will never be forgotten.

 

“Here in the Senate, his character and conscience set the standard across five decades,” Harkin said.

 

Obama similarly praised Inouye’s service the following day during the Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House. Inouye was a World War II veteran who served more than 50 years in Congress and had an enormous impact on the nation, Obama said. He pointed to Inouye’s example as helping to guide Obama himself on the path to public service while he came of age in Hawaii.

 

“As the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people, including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawaii, who noticed that there was somebody during those hearings in Washington that didn’t look like everybody else, which meant that I had a chance to do something important, too,” Obama said. “He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard.”

 

As she accepted the award on Inouye’s behalf, Irene Hirano Inouye said she hoped her husband’s memory would continue to inspire young people for years to come.

 

“For Dan, it was never about the honors…. But I think it is wonderful that people learn his story,” she said. “I hope it is an inspiration for the next generations, an inspiration for Americans.”

 

Inouye’s story is remarkable. His heroics in battle during World War II earned him the Medal of Honor, though as Obama said, “he was humble and didn’t like to wear it often. Instead, he liked to wear a pin representing the Good Conduct Medal he earned as a teenage private.”

 

Inouye was later elected to the U.S. House in 1959 and became a U.S. Senator in 1962, remaining there until his death. During that time he was an ardent defendant of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the SIU. He was such a strong ally of the SIU that he was given honorary status as a member.

 

“In the last 50 years, no one in Congress has been a greater, more influential friend to the maritime industry. His efforts were critical to every piece of maritime legislation enacted in that time,” Sacco said in a statement following Inouye’s death in 2012. “His support of the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, cargo preference and other vital maritime initiatives has been invaluable. He also was instrumental in the rebirth of the U.S.-flag cruise industry in Hawaii.”

 

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