WASHINGTON — Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) joined President Obama at the White House on Nov. 20 as he posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sen. Daniel Inouye.
The award is one of the highest civilian awards bestowed in the United States, along with the Congressional Gold Medal, an award given by Congress in 2011 to the 100th Infantry Battalion, Military Intelligence Service and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, of which Inouye was a member. Inouye has also received the U.S. military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
Accepting on the senator’s behalf was his wife Irene Hirano Inouye. His son, Ken, was also in attendance.
“Mahalo to President Obama for recognizing Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s life of service with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors,” Hirono said. “It was a privilege to join Irene, Ken and so many others to pay tribute to Sen. Inouye’s many accomplishments and dedication to Hawaii and our nation.
“Although he carried himself with humility and often deflected credit, there is no doubt his work laid the foundation of modern Hawaii. While no one will ever replace Sen. Inouye, we can all honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to serving and strengthening our communities and nation.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), who also attended the ceremony, said, “It is impossible to overstate the impact and inspiration of Daniel K. Inouye on our nation and our home state of Hawaii. His valor in war earned him the Medal of Honor, and his lifetime of public service has earned him, today, the Medal of Freedom.
“But Sen. Inouye was not driven by medals or awards. He simply, humbly sought to serve, without pride, fanfare, or expectation of recognition. He summed it up best himself when he said, ‘I represented the people of Hawaii honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.’
“As we recognize Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, we cannot forget the man who always said, whether he was meeting a government leader, a top executive, or the most humble man on the street, ‘Call me Dan.’
“For his service, his inspiration, his humility and his selflessness, I hope Hawaii and the nation will join me today in saying, ‘Mahalo, Senator.’”
Inouye is one of 16 Medal of Freedom recipients honored this year. He joined such notables as former President Bill Clinton, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, country music legend Loretta Lynn, and the late astronaut Sally Ride.