By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – A moving funeral service was held Friday, Dec. 21, for the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton in attendance.
On Saturday, the senator’s body returns home to Hawaii, and a public service will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on Sunday, before he is laid to rest in his home state.
Sen. Inouye was the second-longest serving senator in history, first serving in the U.S. House in 1959 before being elected to the Senate in 1962. He was serving his ninth term in office after winning re-election in 2010 with 75% of the vote.
In his eulogy to Inouye, President Barack Obama was overcome with emotion as he spoke about the senator as his earliest political inspiration.
Obama said Inouye showed him ‘what might be possible in my own life.’
In his boyhood, the president said he recalled watching Inouye during the Watergate hearings, and the experience left him with a sense of what service in government is all about.
He said Inouye is a man full of ‘grace and dignity.’
“For him freedom and dignity were not abstractions,” Obama said. “They were values that he had bled for, ideas he sacrificed for.”
The tributes from the nation’s political leaders were deeply personal. Vice President Joe Biden said he remembered thinking of Inouye: “I wish I could be more like that man. He’s a better man than I am.”
Former President Bill Clinton described Inouye as “one of the most remarkable Americans I have ever known.”
Inouye was the first Japanese-American elected to both houses of Congress. In 2000, Clinton awarded him a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, for bravery in combat during World War II.
“They blew his arm off in World War II, but they never, never laid a finger on his heart or his mind,” Clinton said.
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