WASHINGTON — Following are some of the speeches from the memorial service for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), held Dec. 21 at Washington National Cathedral. The senator passed away on Dec. 17 at the age of 88. (President Obama’s speech has been posted separately.)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki: This morning we celebrate the well-purposed life of a patriot, an American patriot. A life defined by courage, by service to country, by sacrifice for others. Soldier, senator, statesman. But down deep, always a patriot of enormous resolve and principle. This is a compelling story of what it means to be an American.
Dan Inouye had a profound impact on so many lives, including mine. His extraordinary accomplishments are the stuff of legend. Battle-tested in World War II, despite severe wounds prevailed in combat. Recipient of our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. Distinguished senator from Hawaii. President pro tem of the Senate.
His life also exemplified the qualities most revered by his community. Quiet humility. Respect for others. Standing on principles that mattered. Family. Service to community. A modest man who was assertive in doing what was right.
When America was plunged into the crucible of World War II, nowhere was the attack on Pearl Harbor more keenly felt than in the Japanese American community. It’s difficult today to recall the full intensity of fear, of confusion, of suspicion, of recrimination, even hatred that emerged in the days and weeks and months following that surprise attack 71 years ago.
Despite the clear injustice of evicting and relocating so many in the Japanese community, second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry, the Nisei, demanded the right to defend this country in time of war, like other American citizens. And to our country’s credit, their voices were heard, leading to the creation of all-Nisei units commanded by Caucasian officers. Courage, prowess in battle, trust in one another, and determination made these units legendary.
The 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Military Intelligence Service, the MIS. These were not just good units or unique because of ethnic homogeneity. They were premier fighting units, among the best in U.S. history. The soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Go For Broke, served with such distinction that 21 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor. No other regiment in U.S. military history has this distinction, given size and length of service. Their legacy is a drumbeat of loyalty, of courage, honor, dedication and sacrifice.
Dan Inouye served in the 442nd as an infantryman, enlisting in 1943 at age 18. Within a year, he was promoted to sergeant. His performance in combat led to a battlefield commission as second lieutenant in 1944 at age 20. Less than a year later, while leading his platoon in an attack on enemy machine gun positions, he was grievously wounded and permanently disabled. His actions on 21 April 1945 in San Terenzo, Italy were a towering example of strength, of stamina, courage and determination, for which he received one of the 21 Medals of Honor awarded to Go For Broke soldiers.
Dan Inouye and other Nisei veterans returned from war having achieved something monumental, something, as we say, larger than themselves. And they sensed they had earned the right to take larger roles in their communities. They also came home tolerant of views and politics different than their own, a sentiment born of the intolerance they had experienced after Pearl Harbor, but more keenly felt after the horrors they witnessed in liberating Dachau. And they understood the importance of good citizenship, of fair play, hard work, of respect for others and for our flag.
I had relatives who, like Dan Inouye, served in these storied units. Characteristic of them all was rarely if ever speaking about what they had done in the war. From them, my generation learned to find virtue in humility, and the nobility of hard work and the value of family, and the confidence that we in America could achieve anything. They taught us to hope and to dream, and then to do something about it.
Dan Inouye’s service helped remove all doubt about the citizenship and loyalty of all Americans of Japanese ancestry. That is the legacy that he and his generation bequeathed to me and mine. It influenced the way I was able to live my life. I would never have had the opportunity to serve as the chief of staff of our Army had he and the others not purchased back for me, in blood, my birthright to compete fully without any question about my loyalty.
This morning I salute a friend who was more than heroic in battle, more than strong enough in enduring the terrible wounds of war, more than determined in overcoming injustice, and more than generous in sharing his enormous gifts with me and with others.
Dan Inouye and the men of these legendary units sacrificed so much to give us all the opportunities that we have. There is great comfort for me in these reminders. As we often say, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And I have had the broadest of shoulders to stand on.
Aloha, Senator. Aloha and mahalo.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: As the tragic events of recent days remind us, often when death visits, it comes too soon. A plane crash takes many from us, a baby drowns, cancer deprives us of a sibling or a friend, an automobile accident steals away a child. Lives are cut short. Dreams are denied. Often death is so troubling. We ask why. Why him? Why her? Why now? And although I wish I could answer those questions with authority, often the “why” of death is a mystery.
But in the case of Sen. Daniel Inouye, there is no mystery. And although there is sadness, there is no regret. Ecclesiastes, third chapter, second verse, tells us “to everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.” It was Daniel Inouye’s time.
Sen. Inouye lived a full and productive life. He was 88 years old when he died, and he lived each of those 88 years to its fullest.
He was a war hero, a decorated soldier who left the innocence of youth and most of his right arm on an Italian battlefield, where he defended this nation’s freedom even as that nation questioned the loyalty of patriots who looked like him.
He was a healing hero, an example of the resilience of the human body and the human spirit whose resolve to live a life of service was hardened and not broken by 21 months spent recovering from his wound in an Army hospital in Michigan.
He was a legislative hero, a progressive Democrat who would never hesitate to cooperate with a Republican colleague for the good of this country.
In 1968, when the country was riven by racism and divided by war, he calmed the nation’s nerves with an eloquent keynote address before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Daniel Inouye advocated for the rights of all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin or where their parents were born or what their religion was.
He was the first chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He served with distinction as chair of the Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Committee. During his time as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, he turned a formerly neglected committee into a powerful voice for native populations across this great country.
And remarkably, Dan served for more than 34 years with his best friend, the late Republican senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Their friendship, as well as their working relationship, stands as an example of the remarkable things that two senators can accomplish when they set political party aside. Together they were a formidable force in support of this nation’s fighting men and women, working to ensure soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and guardsmen are the best trained and the best equipped in times of peace and times of war.
Sen. Inouye also served as a member of the Watergate Committee and as chairman of the special committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair. Whenever there was a difficult job to do, whenever we needed a noble man to lean on, we always turned to Sen. Daniel Inouye.
So it should come as no surprise that Danny died as he lived, with great dignity. This is no urban legend. Dr. Monihan? the Capitol physician, he said he’s watched people die, but never with such dignity. Irene, his lovely wife, talked about the solemnity of the event. (Senate) Chaplain (Barry) Black, security officers who were there with him (said that) minutes before he passed away, before he died, he shook the hands of friends and caressed the family who surrounded him. He thanked the doctors, he thanked the nurses for their care and attention. He thanked his security detail for their careful protection over the years.
Dan Inouye wrote notes detailing his last wishes minutes before he passed away, working until mere moments before his death. He told his wife, Irene, that he would appreciate my speaking before you today, a gesture that touches my heart more than words that I can express. Then he said “aloha” and he quietly joined the Lord.
He had faced death many times, especially during that awful war that he was fighting in. He would often tell us, told me on many occasions, that during his life he had just been lucky. He always said “just lucky.” But Dan Inouye wasn’t lucky. Dan Inouye was a blessed man. He had work to do here among us, and he stayed until that work was done. As we’re also told in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to every purpose, and this was Sen. Inouye’s time.
The 24th Psalm asks, “Who may ascend to the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?” The question is answered, “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” That is Daniel Inouye, a man with a pure heart, a man with clean hands. During the 1968 convention that I just talked about, Dan taught the nation that “aloha” means not just “hello,” not just “goodbye.” It also means “I love you.” “Aloha” was Dan’s last word on earth.
So I say to my friend Danny, aloha. I love you. And goodbye until we meet again.
Former President Bill Clinton: As Sen. Reid said so eloquently, Dan Inouye lived a full, long life. And so it is our great honor to come here to celebrate it. I am grateful that so many of his colleagues in the Senate in both parties, leaders and members of the House and the administration and especially members of the diplomatic corps have come, because I hope in this short service we can capture the character and contributions of one of the most remarkable Americans I have ever known.
You know, it is difficult to be in politics and be courageous without being sanctimonious. It is difficult to be a gallant man in politics without seeming pompous. And it is difficult to constantly reach out for common ground without wondering if you have left your principles behind. But Dan Inouye did all this and more.
Those of us who knew him can be grateful for so many things. For Hillary and me, he was first and foremost a friend and advisor, something that both of us will cherish forever.
I thought I knew a little bit about Hawaii when I carried the state twice. But I went back one day and he said, “You know, you haven’t paid enough attention to the Okinawans. They have a very distinct community here.” And I said, “Senator, what do you think I should do about it?” He said, “I know what you’re going to do about it. They’re having a festival today and you’re going in two hours.” And I did.
When Hillary became a senator, he was so helpful to her in trying to be a responsible member of the Armed Services Committee because of the concern they had for national defense. I never will forget it.
And if Dan Inouye was your friend, he didn’t care whether the sun was shining or the storm was raging. He didn’t care if you were up or down or sideways. He was just there.
It is almost impossible now to find someone who makes a life in public service who seems literally every day to be totally oblivious to whether he gets one line of press coverage. But then all of a sudden when the country is down and out and when we’re on the ropes and when we have to be big, when we were going through the agony of Watergate or Iran-Contra or we had to reorganize the intelligence services or all these other things he did, the speech he gave at Chicago which Harry referenced, there were people rioting in the streets, kids getting their heads beat in — there was Dan Inouye, telling us what we needed to know.
I am so grateful to him for so many things. I am grateful that I had the chance to put around his neck the Medal of Honor, which was given to him and 21 others almost 50 years too late. It meant a lot to me because as he knew, my native state had two of those Japanese internment camps.
And I was grateful that he never tired of sensing when the moment had come to say what needed to be said. And so, think of this. Ten years ago this spring on the Big Island, Sen. Inouye gave a commencement speech, barely two years, not quite two years after 9/11. And he talked about the future of America and the nature of American patriotism. A man who had given so much, whose own patriotism could never be questioned, said this, something we should all remember and be grateful to him for.
“Patriotism is defined as love and devotion to one’s country. But oftentimes it takes as much if not more courage to speak out against our government. It is that love of country that compels some to speak out and oppose actions. The ability to criticize and question our leaders is at the essence of democracy.
“If we did permit dissenting views and those that would bruise and confront our collective conscience, how much longer would we have had slavery? How much longer would the Vietnam War have dragged on? And would Japanese Americans interned during World War II still be awaiting redress?
“I hope the mistakes made and suffering imposed upon Japanese Americans nearly 60 years ago will not be repeated against Arab Americans, whose loyalties are now being called into question. Their profile is being drawn to resemble what the enemy looks like. Let us not repeat history.”
He was a wise, a good man. The reason he could be courageous without being sanctimonious, the reason so generous and old-fashionedly gallant without seeming pompous, the reason he could be friends across the aisle and find principled compromise without sacrificing principle, is because that is who he was. A whole person united by his parts.
They blew his arm off in World War II, but they never laid a finger on his heart or his mind. That he gave to us for 50 years. And that every single citizen should celebrate.
Vice President Joe Biden: As I was listening to others speak, I thought about the fact that every high point and low point in my career since I announced for the Senate as a 29-year-old kid, your husband, your father, your brother was there for me … actually knocking on my door and saying, “If you’re going to run for president, could I be your national chairman?” And the impact he has had on not just me but my family, Jill and particularly my two boys.
Danny’s departure marks the end of an era. A generation of men and women, referred to as the Greatest Generation, who literally transformed America and helped reshape the world. And in my view, among them Danny may have been the most unique, the most whole. Robert Ingersoll? could have been talking about Danny Inouye when he said “When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death, that is heroism.”
Danny was a heroic figure in every aspect of his life. As so many have referenced today and all that’s been written about him since he passed, this is a man who had to overcome prejudice against Japanese Americans just for the right to fight for the country that he loved. In the process of doing that he showed such extraordinary valor and heroism that he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
But I’m here to tell you that I think his physical courage was matched by his moral courage. I don’t know anybody else that I can say that of in my personal acquaintance … Danny demonstrated that neither prejudice at home nor enemy bullets abroad could keep him from accomplishing his goal, which was always about defending his country but even more importantly about making his country a better place …
As a young kid in law school listening to Danny’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, it seemed like he was the only voice of reason that broke through this God-awful cloud. And he stood there with such absolute confidence and certitude in the midst of all that was going on. Like what he had to say was just self-evident. How could anybody doubt what he said?
He was, in my 36 years in the Senate, more trusted by his colleagues than any man or woman I ever served with. I remember when the Church Committee decided that the intelligence community was out of control and we needed an Intelligence Committee … I remember the discussion was, “Who will head this new committee?” And there was no discussion. It wasn’t like “Maybe we’ll have so-and-so or so-and-so,” it was Danny Inouye. No discussion to the best of my recollection. Virtually none.
When it came time to deal with Watergate, there was that inestimable combination of Danny Inouye, Sam Ervin and Howard Baker. The only person who there was no discussion (about) was Danny Inouye. Same with Iran-Contra.
And why? Why was it so self-evident to every member of the Senate it should be Danny Inouye? One thing — his moral courage. His physical courage reinforced it, but that wasn’t the reason. No one ever doubted that Danny Inouye had such integrity at his core that he would meet any obligation thrust upon him with absolute steadiness and objectivity. I cannot say that about anyone else, and I’ve served with great women and men, some of whom are here in this magnificent cathedral today.
It was one of my great honors in my lifetime that I got to the Senate young enough and early enough that I could serve with those so-called legends of the Senate, a significant portion of whom were still there. But even among those women and men, they all knew Danny Inouye possessed that intangible thing that every leader longs to possess. That is that he would never waver from what he thought was right. Pretty astounding.
It was my privilege to observe and in some small way occasionally participate over the 36 years I served next to Danny. Danny’s power and influence ultimately lay in his character. He earned what every man and woman who’s ever served in Congress has longed for, the uncompromising respect and admiration of his colleagues.
I say to all my colleagues assembled here, can you think of anyone who ever, ever, ever, ever questioned Danny Inouye’s integrity, even in the midst of the bitterness that has enveloped the Congress over the last several years? The interesting thing was there are men who were respected and had great integrity like Mike Mansfield and others, but I know no one who was both as respected and loved as much as Danny Inouye. “Love” is a word people throw around very easily these days. But when people talked about loving Danny, they meant it …
My mom used to have an expression. She’d say that … you’re defined by your courage and redeemed by your loyalty. No person I’ve ever served with or knew since I arrived here had more physical and moral courage or ever exceeded Danny in his loyalty to those whom he respected beyond his family. This may seem like a strange thing to say in this cathedral, but … with the exception of my father, there are few people that I’ve ever looked at and said, “I wish I could be more like that man. He’s a better man than I am.” That’s why I looked at Danny and I told him so. In his characteristic way, he told me that my judgment was flawed …
I think the highest compliment that a man or woman can give to another man or woman is to look at them and say to their children, “You see that man? You see that woman? There’s not a single character trait they have that I do not wish for you.” Over 35 years ago I told that to my sons, and I meant it then and I mean it now.
I guess that’s why my sons called me immediately and separately from different parts of the world upon hearing of Danny’s passing. They knew him and most important to them, they knew that he knew them. Think of that — how important it is to them to be able to say not just “I knew Danny Inouye,” but “He knew me.” It’s one of the treasures of their lives. “Danny Inouye knew me.” It mattered then, it matters now.
His passing marks the end of an era. We’ve lost one of the greatest leaders of the greatest generation. A man who everyone in this cathedral will miss and a man who taught every one of us in this cathedral something about ourselves we probably didn’t know before we met him.