From the Director: Tom Ikeda
The Japanese American community lost a beloved leader this week with the passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Although Senator Inouye represented the state of Hawai'i, many Japanese Americans saw him as our Japanese American U.S. Senator, someone to seek counsel and help with federal government issues.
For example, during the redress movement in the late 1970s, Japanese American community activists sought payments for individuals who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. While the activists wanted immediate action, Senator Inouye proposed forming the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians because he recognized Congress wasn't ready to pass this legislation. This approach worked as the findings from this commission led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided for a presidential apology and a $20,000 payment for individuals affected by the government's actions during WWII. After the legislation was passed, Senator Inouye made another critical contribution when he used his knowledge of government appropriations to make the redress payments a 10-year entitlement program to ensure all payments were made quickly without the need of annual U.S. Congressional approval.
However, as important as Senator Inouye's contributions were at the national level, I will remember him most for his warm support of the Japanese American community in Seattle. He would graciously take time from his busy schedule to travel across the country to speak at community events, especially those that paid tribute to Japanese American veterans, knowing his presence would boost attendance, and his talk would entertain and inspire the audience. And afterwards, he enjoyed going for a drink and telling stories with his deep, rich voice that would first mesmerize and then have us howling with laughter.
When we last parted a couple of months ago, I asked the Senator how we could ever repay him for all of his help. He paused and smiled, and simply said to continue to help others and serve the public.
Mahalo Senator Dan, may you rest in peace.
>> Please see Densho's encyclopedia article for a more complete description of Senator Inouye's life.