Colleen Hanabusa

Floor Speech in Remembrance of Senator Daniel K. Inouye- Dec. 19, 2012

Colleen Hanabusa
December 19, 2012
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Thank you and thank you to my colleagues from Hawaii for doing this. Mister Speaker, I rise today in support the resolution 839 which relates to the death the honorable Daniel K. Inouye, senator from the state of Hawaii.

I know that as the most senior member of the United States Senate, as the appropriations chair and as a true war hero, Sen. Inouye will be remembered in Washington and Hawaii and across the nation. Tomorrow he will be given one of the highest honors of anyone in this country and that is to be able to lie in-state in this capital. But for me the passing strikes deeper because he was also my mentor and a dear friend.

I had the honor having lunch with Sen. Inouye just before he went into the hospital, and we discussed many things. Know that his love and concern for Hawaii and for America has never wavered. He never stopped thinking about how things could be made better, who we could help and what we could accomplish. He was, of course, a force to be reckoned with, and as I said at the time I just couldn't think of Hawaii without Sen. Inouye. Since his passing statements like congressman from Alaska just said about Sen. [Inouye] being their third senator has been made by other congressmen to me as well, so you know that his impact was felt very deeply throughout this country. As long as Hawaii has been a state, Dan Inouye served us in Washington, us meaning the people of Hawaii.

For most people in Hawaii he was always there, as dependable as the sunrise, and yet he was never proud, never acted as though he was better than the people he represented. I can tell you from personal experience that it is just impossible to be an elected official in Hawaii without being in awe of Daniel K. Inouye, someone who served so long, accomplished so much, and yet made it seem so effortless.

Hawaii was and is a grassroots state. You need to get out there with the people, share their activities, eat their food -now that's really critical- laugh at their jokes, and there was Dan Inouye, the war hero, recipient of the Medal of Honor, U.S. senator, an iconic force in Hawaii’s history and politics, and he just fit right in. Us, people of Hawaii, we can spot a phony a mile away, but we loved him because we knew he was the real thing. He was genuine. So here was the most senior member of the Senate, chair of the Appropriations Committee and President Pro Tem, and third in line to the succession to the presidency, but in his heart he was no different than that kid growing up in a territorial Hawaii, not wearing shoes until he got to high school -by the way not wearing shoes we called going hadashi in Hawaii- who volunteered just out of high school to serve his country in war, and I think, that's why, when he ran for reelection, his bumper stickers didn't say Sen. Inouye or Daniel K. Inouye. It just said Dan. I still remember his political poster, when I began to recognize political posters, solid black with Dan, his signature in yellow, simple yet strong as he was. I didn't know at that time the significance of the colors. Those with the colors of his alma mater, McKinley High School, again a statement that he never forgot where he came from.

For me knowing Dan Inouye and learning from him that down to earth nature was a very special thing. When he shared his insights about serving the people who elected us and doing what is right for Hawaii and America, I knew it was coming from his heart.

Not just that, what he was doing was advising, to show the true love for the people he served, but also that he was sharing these insights with me because he cared enough about me to pass on the lessons. He genuinely wanted me to do better, quietly with that great smile and that beautiful resonant voice, he gave that gift of his experience and his wisdom, a man of such accomplishments and power who was unbelievably generous of himself. I will never forget that gift for my friend Dan Inouye.

For the next few days as we say goodbye to a genuine hero, a champion, a buddy, a political icon, I hope, Mister Speaker, you will join us in remember a wonderful man and to pass this resolution so that we me all say Aloha Dan. Mahalo. And thank you.