Obituary / News that Hawaii’s Senator Daniel K. Inouye had died in a Washington, D.C.-area hospital swept the Weekly newsroom as we were going to press Monday. We knew this day would come, when the nation’s longest-serving member of the Senate, and Hawaii’s creative and outspoken defender, would exit the stage he commanded since he was the state’s first Congressman. Still, it came as a surprise. Gasps were heard. If there was a common reaction, it could be boiled down to: What next?
Senator Inouye’s finest hour was undoubtedly during Watergate, when his impressive demeanor and sonorous voice captivated the nation, elevated the multi-ethnic profile of Hawaii and brought new attention to the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he lost his arm in action and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. He made America proud at a low point in its political life.
Among his many committees and initiatives, his reputation for bipartisanship and his legendary ability to bring home the bacon, Senator Inouye was the most prominent and effective spokesman for native Hawaiians. In perhaps no other area was the Senator’s use of his considerable powers so necessary.
“What next?” will be answered in the days and weeks to come. Right now, we’ll just say “Aloha, Senator.”