Monday, December 24, 2012

Aloha, Senator Dan

First Lt. Daniel Inouye (Wikimedia)
Dan Inouye visited Iolani School in Honolulu sometime soon after becoming one of Hawaii’s first U.S. Senators in 1963. He exhorted our high school class of boys to become men our families, our state and our nation could be proud of.

Senator Dan, who serve in the Senate for nearly 50 years, died last week and received many accolades for his service to the country as soldier and senator. He had lost his right arm in the Second World War and I recall how firmly he shook my hand using his left hand.

I don’t know if I’d have passed muster and become the kind of man to make my state and nation proud. I think about sitting before the Selective Service draft board whose members all looked like the served alongside Senator Dan and even looked like him, telling them the Vietnam War was immoral and how I couldn’t in good conscience go to their war.

But I admired Senator Dan and I cheered when he impassively grilled President Nixon’s Watergate conspirators and I got mad when one of them called him “that fat Jap” not knowing the microphone was live.

He become more and more “senatorial” and demonstrated that kind of majestic dignity in chairing the Iran-Contra Senate hearings. Go, Senator Dan; we got close but just couldn’t get Reagan, the true Teflon president.

Senator Dan got older and I guess I did, too. I got disgusted when he threw his seniority around and supported Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska on oil drilling and oil tankers, putting the environment I love at risk and calling Senator Stevens, “my good friend Ted Stevens.” I had never thought of Alaska and Hawaii as sharing political interests simply because we’d entered the United States as its 49th and 50th states.

I think 50 years is too long to be in office but that’s the way the Senate rules work and that’s what the voters in Hawaii wanted. Senator Dan’s passing made me reflect on who else I’ve been traveling with from back in the early ‘60s. For me, I guess that’d be limited in longevity to Bob Dylan.

So, now it’s me and Dylan. Aloha, Senator Dan.

--Mike Sato

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