Asian Pacific American organizations nationwide are paying tribute to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who passed away on Monday at the age of 88 from respiratory complications. Following are some of their statements.
• Japanese American Citizens League: During his eight decades of public service, Inouye helped build and shape Hawaii. He began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.
After receiving his law degree, Inouye returned to Hawaii and worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. He recognized the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, and in 1954 was part of a Democratic revolution that took control of the Territorial Legislature.
Following statehood in 1959, he was privileged to serve as Hawaii’s first congressman and in 1962 ran for the Senate, where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.
Sen. Inouye was always among the first to speak out against injustice, whether (on behalf of) interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.
A prominent player on the national stage, Sen. Inouye served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee, and was the first chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Dan said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.” His last words were “Aloha.”
JACL mourns the passing of Sen. Inouye and sends its deepest condolences to his family: his wife Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., daughter-in-law Jessica, granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano.
“Sen. Inouye has been an irreplaceable voice for the Japanese American community and his contributions to the nation are incalculable. His loss has sent shockwaves throughout the community and he will be sorely missed,” says Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida.
• Japanese American National Museum (Greg Kimura, president and CEO): The Japanese American community is deeply saddened by this loss. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is irreplaceable. He embodies the very best of our community and our nation. He fought with valor and distinction on the battlefield and he was a tireless supporter of civil rights and social justice for all Americans.
His legacy will live on in the many lives and institutions he touched, like the National Museum, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, and their family during this difficult time.
• Manzanar Committee (Bruce Embrey, co-chair): Our nation, our community has lost a giant, a true American hero, with the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye. On every front, from the battlefield to the halls of Congress, he was a brave, creative, and effective leader.
Sen. Inouye’s wise counsel and leadership in helping establish the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) demonstrated his political genius. He recognized that once Americans heard the truth that our nation would be bound to recognize the injustice of the incarceration of the Japanese American people during World War II, and he was right. The stories told during the CWRIC hearings were pivotal in winning support for redress and reparations, leading to enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
He emerged as a tireless champion for Native peoples and recognizing the contributions of Pilipino war veterans, making sure that all people enjoyed full constitutional rights. Sen. Inouye was an inspiration to us all, and will continue to inspire future generations. He will be sorely missed, and on behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I’d to express our condolences to his family.
• U.S.-Japan Council (Thomas Iino, chairman): Throughout history, few individuals contribute a profound level of uniqueness to global relationships. On Dec.17, 2012, the world lost such a human being. The United States’ most senior senator passed away peacefully yesterday, leaving behind a legacy of commitment to the U.S.-Japan relationship and to the world.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye dedicated his life to human understanding and relationships through dialogue within the public and private sectors of our domestic and international communities. In particular, he created a network of strong people-to-people relationships between the U.S. and Japan, which has helped overcome the walls of misunderstanding that evolved from the historical events of World War II.
With his wife and partner, Irene Hirano Inouye, Sen. Inouye helped create the U.S.-Japan Council, a living legacy of his life’s work ensuring the long-term strength and stability of what friend and colleague Mike Mansfield called the world’s most important bilateral relationship, the U.S.-Japan alliance.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the U.S.-Japan Council, I can say with confidence that the vision Sen. Inouye and Irene Hirano Inouye share of a strong and vibrant U.S.-Japan relationship and a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific region will stand the test of time.
• Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress: We share in our nation’s loss of a great leader and human being and our community’s loss of a friend and staunch supporter.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, we recall the senator’s tremendous contribution to the funding of this historic legislation. The CLA would provide the government’s apology and monetary compensation to Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed, incarcerated, or similarly impacted by President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of E.O. 9066.
When the CLA was passed, appropriations were not automatically included. With each passing month, so many Issei and Nisei were dying and would not see the long-awaited apology and reparations. Sen. Inouye’s leadership was critical in getting the votes to make the appropriations an entitlement program that ultimately provided restitution to over 82,000 surviving former incarcerees and others who suffered from the government’s wartime actions.
His long and illustrious career and legacy are highlighted with the support of those oppressed or unjustly treated, including Native Americans and World War II Pilipino veterans.
During the several visits to the senator during the redress years, we were always greeted with his great smile and the “aloha” spirit. It is with great sadness, tremendous gratitude and respect that we say, “Aloha, Sen. Inouye.”
• President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Daphne Kwok, chair): Sen. Inouye has been an inspiration for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. From his service in the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team and his unparalleled heroism demonstrated in a battle that earned him the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor, to 50 years of leadership and exemplary service in the Senate as the highest-ranking AAPI politician, Sen. Inouye demonstrated to all of us that anything is achievable in the United States of America.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he was a tireless advocate for AAPI issues and concerns, including protecting the rights of Filipino World War II veterans and the sovereign rights of Native Hawaiians.
Sen. Inouye dedicated his life to public service, and exemplified patriotism and citizenship. May we all follow his example of service to our country.
• OCA: “We are honored to have had the pleasure to working very closely with the senator over the years on a number of important issues for the Asian Pacific Americans as well as the nation at large. His historically unprecedented accomplishments as a statesman is truly an inspiration for all of us, including future generations of APAs,” said Tom Hayashi, OCA executive director.
“No words will do justice to express the gratitude for Sen. Inouye’s contributions to our great nation and the Asian Pacific American community. Our thoughts are with the senator’s loved ones in this time of great loss,” said Ken Lee, OCA national president.
• Asian American Journalists Association: As a World War II Medal of Honor hero who lost his right arm in combat, Sen. Inouye overcame prejudice and fought for the right to defend the United States and its principles of freedom, which include free speech and a free press. As a politician who helped to transform his native Hawaii from an isolated territory into the 50th state that has set a national example in diverse leadership, Sen. Inouye championed civil rights, fought against racism and discrimination, and broke down barriers.
AAJA especially appreciates Sen. Inouye’s support of The Honolulu Advertiser’s 600 employees and 150,000 daily readers in April 2010, when he wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for a thorough review of the newspaper’s impending sale, in the interest of “preserving the diversity of voices in the media and protecting jobs.”
• Asian American Justice Center (Mee Moua, president and executive director): Today, we lost a true American hero in the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye, a fierce advocate and leader for civil and human rights … Our sympathy goes out to his family and to the people in Hawaii whom he represented so well. A decorated World War II veteran and the longest serving public servant in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Inouye’s legacy lives on.
• Asian Pacific American Legal Center (Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director): Sen. Daniel K. Inouye left a legacy of courage, justice, and public service. Sen. Inouye’s passing is a loss for the entire country, and we express our deepest condolences to his family. We will continue to be inspired by Sen. Inouye in standing up for the values of equality and inclusion that he embodied.
• National Japanese American United Methodist Caucus: “Named after the Methodist pastor who operated an orphanage where his mother had been raised during part of her childhood, Sen. Inouye distinguished himself as a trailblazer for persons of Japanese ancestry in the national arena. He was the first U.S. representative from the state of Hawaii, the first Japanese American member of Congress, and a decorated WWII Medal of Honor recipient.
Last year, Sen. Inouye joined fellow Japanese American WWII veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service, U.S. Army, who were bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress, for their dedicated service in World War II by the United States Congress at a special ceremony held on Nov. 2, 2011.
During the campaign for Japanese American redress and reparations in the 1980s, the senior senator from Hawaii noted the irony of serving alongside second-generation Japanese American soldiers from the mainland, whose parents were locked up in U.S. government internment camps while these same soldiers shed blood on foreign battlefields for the U.S. government.
Throughout his life and career, Sen. Inouye was an advocate for the underrepresented and marginalized persons of society who took seriously his United Methodist faith. An example of this was his constant support of the Susannah Wesley Community Center, a mission agency of the United Methodist Church, in the Kalihi area of Honolulu, Hawaii. Over the years, he maintained his relationship with the Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in Honolulu …
The NJAUMC joins all people from the state of Hawaii and across the U.S. in mourning the loss of a great public servant and fellow patron of the United Methodist Church.
• National Japanese American Historical Society: “We at the NJAHS are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of Sen. Daniel Inouye,” stated President Bryan Yagi. “He will be remembered for his political astuteness and for championing causes for minorities, Native Hawaiians, American Indians, and Japanese Americans.
“It was Sen. Inouye who wisely suggested to create a commission to raise national awareness about the wartime injustices committed against Japanese Americans and others. The Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, its hearings, findings, and recommendations helped pave the way for the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
“Then in 1990, through an entitlement, he helped secure reparations for $20,000 for each surviving former camp incarceree. Many years later, he was the key vote to support the US Army’s multi-million-dollar efforts to clean up the Presidio of San Francisco, prior to its transfer to the National Park Service.”
NJAHS Executive Director Rosalyn Tonai said, “We at NJAHS are forever indebted to his lasting support and acknowledgement of the Military Intelligence Service and our efforts to preserve and reconstruct Building 640, the first Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center at the Presidio of San Francisco (scheduled to open at the end of 2013.)
“Our most recent and proudest moment with Sen. Inouye was when he received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the 100th/442nd/MIS veterans of World War II and at the press rollout on the CGM’s national tour in Washington, D.C.”
• Densho (Tom Ikeda, executive director): The Japanese American community lost a beloved leader this week with the passing of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Although Sen. Inouye represented the state of Hawaii, many Japanese Americans saw him as our Japanese American U.S. senator, someone to seek counsel and help with federal government issues.
For example, during the redress movement in the late 1970s, Japanese American community activists sought payments for individuals who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. While the activists wanted immediate action, Sen. Inouye proposed forming the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians because he recognized Congress wasn’t ready to pass this legislation.
This approach worked as the findings from this commission led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided for a presidential apology and a $20,000 payment for individuals affected by the government’s actions during WWII.
After the legislation was passed, Sen. Inouye made another critical contribution when he used his knowledge of government appropriations to make the redress payments a 10-year entitlement program to ensure all payments were made quickly without the need of annual U.S. congressional approval.
However, as important as Sen. Inouye’s contributions were at the national level, I will remember him most for his warm support of the Japanese American community in Seattle. He would graciously take time from his busy schedule to travel across the country to speak at community events, especially those that paid tribute to Japanese American veterans, knowing his presence would boost attendance, and his talk would entertain and inspire the audience. And afterwards, he enjoyed going for a drink and telling stories with his deep, rich voice that would first mesmerize and then have us howling with laughter.
When we last parted a couple of months ago, I asked the senator how we could ever repay him for all of his help. He paused and smiled, and simply said to continue to help others and serve the public.
Mahalo, Senator Dan, may you rest in peace.
• Japanese American Veterans Association (Gerald Yamada, president): The nation lost a great American leader in the passing of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. He represented the best of his generation and the best of the Japanese American community. His unsurpassed accomplishments will inspire future generations as to what is possible to achieve in America. He was a devoted supporter of JAVA and was one of its charter honorary chairs. We will always be appreciative of his sponsorship of legislative initiatives that were important to veterans and the Japanese American community. We will miss him, and our prayers are with his wife and family at this difficult time.