Mr. President, I’ve heard the tributes paid to Senator Inouye by his fellow senators over the past several hours. It’s a strong testament to the character of Senator Inouye that his loss as a friend and colleague is so deeply felt. Senator Inouye impressed many of us with his quiet determination, his dedication to right and wrong, and his sheer decency.
He was a gentle force in the U.S. Senate. He had a strong work ethic and was very productive on behalf of the entire United States and, of course, his beloved state of Hawaii. Because he was restrained in his demeanor, when he spoke, he commanded attention. He was well-respected in the Senate for his lifelong statesmanship and for his early displays of courage and sacrifice for our country.
Barely out of his teens, Senator Inouye confronted more tests of his bravery than the vast majority of us will face in a lifetime. He passed those tests with flying colors. And his representation of American interests in the heavy combat theaters of World War II was something he had to pursue, not a perfunctory act.
Even though he was an eyewitness to Japanese war planes flying overhead in assault on Hawaii, he could not enlist in the U.S. military at the time as a Japanese-American. He and others petitioned the government, and when they were allowed to enlist, he did. He and his fellow Americans of Japanese descent went on to serve with tremendous skill and heroism.
I encourage everyone to read about Senator Inouye’s wartime experience. He teaches us all about answering the call to duty with determination and without hesitation. His example of selflessness and his elevation of common cause over individual interests are especially relevant in these trying times. In Congress, if we all sacrifice more and worry about self-preservation less, we can accomplish a lot for the country Senator Inouye fought to save.
I’m glad to have served with and learned from Senator Inouye.