East Hawaii News

Inouye Honored With Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 20, 2013, 3:20 PM HST
* Updated November 21, 11:10 AM
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President Obama today posthumously awarded the late Sen. Daniel Inouye with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Inouye is now the recipient of the highest honors the nation bestows to both civilians and members of the military. He had previously been awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000 for heroism during World War II.

During the ceremony at the White House, Obama praised Inouye for both his actions and his principles.

“Daniel Inouye was a humble man and didn’t wear his Medal of Honor very often, instead he liked to wear a pin representing the good conduct medal he earned as a teenage private,” Obama said.

“Danny always honored his family and his country, even when his country didn’t always honor him,” the president said, referring to Inouye’s enlistment in the Army after being classified with many other Japanese-Americans as an enemy alien.

Inouye’s widow, Irene Hirano Inouye, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation praised Obama’s action, which was first announced in August.

“No one is more deserving of this honor than Senator Inouye,” Sen. Brian Schatz said in a press release.  “Senator Inouye is Hawaii’s hero, he is an American hero, and great leader who served with incredible bravery, compassion, and humility.  This is an honor for everyone in Hawai‘i that he is being recognized in this way.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono, who like Schatz attended today’s ceremony, issued a statement thanking Obama for recognizing Inouye’s life of service.

“Although he carried himself with humility and often deflected credit, there is no doubt his work laid the foundation of modern Hawaii,” Hirono said. “While no one will ever replace Senator Inouye, we can all honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to serving and strengthening our communities and nation.”

It is impossible to overstate the impact and inspiration of Daniel K. Inouye on our nation and our home state of Hawaii,” said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. “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 Senator Inouye was not driven by medals or awards,” Hanabusa said. “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.’”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the award appropriately recognizes Inouye’s legacy of courage, integrity and service.

“The senator gave everything in his devotion to Hawaii Nei and our nation, a fact now recognized by two United States presidents and two of our nation’s highest honors,” Abercrombie said. “I can think of no one more deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His service was the epitome of valor and the aloha spirit.”

Inouye was one of 16 awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom today.

Two others were also awarded posthumously, to astronaut Sally Ride and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.

Other medal recipients today included President Bill Clinton, talk-show magnate Oprah Winfrey, feminist writer and equal-rights activist Gloria Steinem, country music legend Loretta Lynn, Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, veteran Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario Molina, jazz icon Arturo Sandoval, former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, minister and civil rights activist Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian and Judge Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, the University of Hawai`i has selected an architectural firm to design the new Daniel K. Inouye Center for Democratic Leadership.

“Established in honor of the late Senator Inouye, the center will serve as a living tribute to a man who championed the ideals of freedom, fairness, integrity and democratic ideals throughout a lifetime of service, and who played a significant role in shaping the history of America, Hawai‘i and the Asia Pacific region,” UH said in a press release.

Clifford Planning & Architecture LLC and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects LLP will design the center on the university’s Manoa campus.

The center will feature an archive of Inouye’s congressional papers and include a variety of programs aimed at policy and leadership as well as public service, leadership and civic engagement for students and scholars.

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