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Obama: Akaka ‘Embodied the Aloha Spirit’

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka, who died on Friday at the age of 93, is being eulogized by his friends and colleagues, including former President Barack Obama, who served with Akaka in the Senate.

Akaka retired in 2012 after serving a total of 36 years in Congress.

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka and his wife Millie enjoying the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

“Michelle and I celebrate the life and service of our friend, Senator Daniel Akaka,” Obama said. “He was a tireless advocate for working people, veterans, native Hawaiian rights, and the people of Hawaii.”

Obama, who was a teenager when Akaka first started serving in Congress, recalled that the Hawaii Democrat was “one of the first people to welcome me with open arms when we served together in the Senate.”

“He embodied the aloha spirit with compassion and care,” Obama said. “Michelle and I send our deep condolences to Millie and his family, and to the people of Hawaii who loved him and whom he loved throughout his life.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my former colleague, Senator Daniel K. Akaka. As the first Native Hawaiian elected to the U.S. Senate and a founding member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, he was a tremendous leader for both the people of Hawaii and the broader Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community.

“Throughout his 36 years in Congress, he fought tirelessly to secure funding and parity for the Native Hawaiian people and successfully passed an apology resolution to acknowledge the U.S. government’s role in the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

“As a World War II veteran, he also cared deeply about our nation’s military service members and veterans. During his tenure as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he led notable efforts to secure benefits for Filipino veterans who served alongside American forces during World War II as well as Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

“His legacy of aloha will be remembered not only in the loving family he leaves behind, but also in his lifelong service to his beloved home state of Hawaii and the American people. My thoughts are with his wife, Millie, his family, and the people of Hawaii during this difficult time.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco): “From his service during WWII, to his 30 years representing the people of Hawaii in the halls of Congress, Daniel Akaka’s legacy of action and activism represent the best of America. May it be a comfort to his family that so many join in celebrating the life of this extraordinary man.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): “In everything he did, as a soldier, a teacher and as a statesman, Senator Daniel Akaka embodied the spirit of Hawaii. For all he taught us, for his service and his friendship, we say ‘Mahalo’ one final time.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): “Saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and former colleague, Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. He was widely respected and dedicated his life to serving our country and the people of Hawaii. He was also a great friend to Alaska, another young offshore state, throughout his time in office. We will miss him and extend our condolences to his wife Millie, his family, and the people of Hawaii.”

Japanese American Veterans Association: “Throughout his legislative career, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka worked tirelessly to recognize the contributions made by Japanese Americans veterans by inserting in the Congressional Record the Nisei contributions to their nation; by enacting legislation which resulted in the review and upgrade of medals, by getting the U.S. Army to write a book on the Military Intelligence Service, and by facilitating the correction of records of thousands of Asia Pacific American veterans.

“During his chairmanship, the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs produced an unmatched record of new laws on health care and compensation benefits for veterans.”

Honolulu JACL: “JACL-Honolulu is saddened to have lost a civil rights champion with the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka. We will miss his kindness and deeply rooted perspective. Hawaii is a better place because of him.”

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii: “Mahalo, Senator Akaka, for your years of leadership and your support in preserving Honouliuli [internment camp]. Hawaii is a better place thanks to you.”

Stacey Hayashi, screenwriter, “Go For Broke: An Origin Story”: “We lost a great man today. I’m having trouble finding the right words … but, I’ll forever treasure the memories of the past few years especially…. among them, getting this guy front and center when PM [Shinzo] Abe and Pres Obama visited Pearl Harbor, helping the fishermen, and this day, getting him in Go For Broke movie…. which was such a joy to me.

“Deepest condolences to the Akaka ohana. Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka, we love and miss you. Thank you for everything. A hui hou.

Club 100 (Hawaii): “It is with heavy heart that we must say aloha to Senator Daniel K. Akaka, who was an honorary member of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans. Senator Akaka was a supporter of our WWII Japanese American veterans from day one and a fixture at every banquet. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles: “Senator Akaka was a true inspiration to all of us. He was a powerful advocate for Native Hawaiians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders and served the people of Hawaii with grace and compassion.”

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