Akaka: Revered Asian Pacific American legislator retires

Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii is retiring after 22 years in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii is retiring after 22 years in the U.S. Senate.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – For the last time in 22 years, Sen. Daniel Akaka brought down the gavel on a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday, Nov. 29.

The first Native Hawaiian and the first Native person to head the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Akaka headed the committee over the past two years, conducting 43 hearings in all.

He will remain a senator during the lame-duck session of the 112th Congress, and steps down on Jan. 2, 2013. He will be replaced by the first Asian Pacific American woman represent Hawaii in the U.S. Senate, Mazzie Hirono.

“I am proud of my accomplishments on behalf of our federal workers, consumers, veterans and all the people of Hawaii,” Akaka wrote on his official website.

“You have always been my first and foremost priority.  I will always be grateful to the people of Hawaii and will cherish the time I spent representing you in Washington, D.C.,” he wrote.

With his long-time legislative partner, Sen. Daniel Inouye, Akaka was in the forefront of providing a voice to Asian Pacific Americans.

Filipino World War II veterans are particularly grateful for his support and advocacy of the veterans fight for recognition, compensation and other benefits.

Akaka served in the U.S. House of Representative, first elected in 1976. He was appointed to the Senate when Sen. Spark Matsunaga passed away, subsequently winning election to the office in 1990, and re-election in 1994, 2000, and 2006.

Fellow senators lauded the Hawaii Democrat for his work for Indian Country. The hearing focused on preserving Native cultures and identities.

According to the Associated Press, Akaka grew emotional before dropping the gavel for the last time. Rather than goodbye, he said: “It is with much aloha that I say to you now, ‘A hui hou (ah hoo-EE’ HOH’-oo),’ see you again.”

Aloha is a Hawaiian greeting that also means love and care.

 

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera

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