President Obama eulogized Hawaii’s long-serving senator, Daniel Inouye, Friday, calling him “my earliest political inspiration” and a man of “dignity and grace.”
At a funeral service at Washington National Cathedral, Mr. Obama mused that he might not be where he is today if not for the example of Mr. Inouye, who died earlier this week of respiratory problems at the age of 88.
As a Japanese-American, the Hawaii Democrat wasn’t what “central casting” would have sent over to play the role of U.S. senator when Mr. Obama was growing up in Hawaii, “yet he commanded the respect of an entire nation,” Mr. Obama said.
“This suggested to me what might be possible,” Mr. Obama added, and projected a “powerful sense of hope. … He embodied the best of ‘aloha.’ “
Mr. Inouye, who has served in Congress for as long as Hawaii has been a state, starting out as a House member in 1959, was the second-longest-serving senator in history.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama recalled watching the 1973 Watergate hearings with his mother and noticing Mr. Inouye’s role on the investigating committee. He said he remembers watching “this man of Japanese descent with one arm,” who spoke with such “dignity and grace.”
Mr. Inouye lost his arm while serving in World War II, and he received the Medal of Honor for the courage he showed during a 1945 battle in Tuscany, Italy, in which he continued to fight and throw grenades despite being wounded in the stomach and the elbow.
Mr. Obama sat between former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who served with Mr. Inouye in the Senate for 36 years.
Mr. Biden called Mr. Inouye an honored member of the World War II generation that “transformed American and helped reshape the world.”
“Danny’s departure marks an end of an era,” he said.