Sen. Inouye farewelled at dignified service in Washington D.C. - Guest Editorial

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Aumua Amata

Sen. Inouye farewelled at dignified service in Washington D.C.

by Aumua Amata

Given my family’s long-standing history with Hawaii Senator Dan
Inouye, I had every intention of attending his funeral last Friday in
Washington on a personal basis, but I was honored to have been
designated by Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus to also
formally represent the Republican National Committee at the service. A
hallmark of Senator Inouye’s career was his ability to seek consensus
along bipartisan lines, so it was entirely fitting for RNC to honor
him this way and I felt especially privileged to represent RNC for
this gesture of respect.

While there also will be burial services in Hawaii, the service in
Washington was the main memorial to him and I was proud to be part of
it. Held at the ornate and massive Washington National Cathedral on a
cold early winter day, the two-hour celebration and thanksgiving
memorial service brought together the nation’s political elite from
both sides of the political aisle from both Houses of Congress. A day
earlier the senator lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda so that
people from all walks of life could pass his bier to pay their
respects to a man who was the second longest serving senator in U.S.
history.

While I sat quietly in this great historical Cathedral where President
Woodrow Wilson is buried and I watched all the political leaders file
in, I quietly listened to the testimonials to Senator Dan’s career,
led by President Obama. Others who spoke included Vice President
Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congresswoman Colleen
Hanabusa, U.S. Senator-elect Mazie Hirono and Senate Chaplain RADM
Barry Black.

The Cathedral was packed because even though it is so close to
Christmas when Congress is normally in recess, negotiations to end the
“Fiscal Cliff” crisis are still on-going, so virtually all members of
the House and Senate are at their duty stations to protect the
interests of their constituencies.

I couldn't help but realize just how deeply this great, humble leader
was loved and respected and that all of these people had braved the
cold weather to be there to express a final thank you to a man who
never hesitated to lend a helping hand to those who needed it. We in
the territories especially American Samoa will always remember the
senator for his big heart who from the beginning quietly took us under
his wing and kept an eye on us for all the years he served in the U.S.
House of Representatives and Senate.

Former President Clinton said it best when he observed that "Sen.
Inouye didn't care whether the sun was shining, he was just there. He
said what needed to be said and he gave so much of himself because
that's who he was, a whole person united by his parts." Although
President Clinton's name was not on the program as a speaker, he got
right up and spoke out of his heart.

Hawaii’s own Eric Shinseki, a retired army general who now is
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, reflected on Dan Inouye the military
hero, whose enormous resolve and principle taught others what it means
to be an American and how he prevailed in combat. He eventually
received twenty-one medals and ultimately the Medal of Honor for his
heroic actions on the battlefield.

Senator Reid reminisced about Inouye's best friend, Senator Ted
Stevens and how his and Inouye's bipartisan partnership demonstrated
that great accomplishments are possible when people set party politics
aside for the common good of the people.

Vice President Biden quoted his own mother's words: "You are defined
by your courage and redeemed by your loyalty." He observed that
Senator Inouye personified his mother's words and added that even
during the time of prejudice against the Japanese, no one was more
trusted and respected by his colleagues than the late Senator.

The music of the Cathedral Choir was awesome especially their
rendition of “America the Beautiful” while wonderful music from
Senator Inouye's own state of Hawaii was presented by The Aloha Boys:
Isaac Jesse Waipulani Ho'opi'i on the guitar, Irv Queja on the bass
guitar with Glen Hirabayashi on the ukulele.

As the service closed, I thought back to the day when Senator Inouye
set aside an hour of his busy office schedule just to visit with my
mother and talk about the good old days during her final visit to
Washington after my father died. I learned a lesson in that single act
of courtesy on his part. And over the years, Senator Inouye taught me
other things that I've incorporated into my life: He taught me about
enormous resolve, humility and respect for others, standing on the
principles that mattered to others. He lived each day and year to its
fullest and while there's sadness today, there's no regret.

He wielded enormous power but did so in an understated way that we all
could do well to observe and emulate. Goodbye my dear senator. Hawaii
had no greater son and American Samoa no better friend.

(This piece was previously printed in the Samoa News, Dec. 24, 2012.)