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'A hui hou': Akaka bids farewell to U.S. Senate after 22 years

By Associated Press & Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 12:27 p.m. HST, Dec 12, 2012

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka said aloha to Washington in a farewell speech on the Senate floor this morning.

The Hawaii Democrat has been in Washington for 36 years, 14 of those in the House and the last 22 years in the Senate. He didn't seek re-election.

Akaka, the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate, said he was humbled to have left his mark on the institution.

He spoke of his work on veterans' issues, borne of experience. Akaka said the GI Bill helped him and others build a new life after World War II, and showed him that when Congress acts responsibly, it can build a better America.

Akaka also said it was long-overdue for Native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition similar to American Indian tribes.

Akaka acknowledged that the Akaka Bill, named after him, will not pass before he leaves office, but urged colleagues to pass the measure, which would create a process toward Native Hawaiian sovereignty.

"It is pono. It is right. It is long overdue," Akaka said.

He began his remarks with best wishes for senior Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, who is still under observation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center after fainting in the Senate chamber last week.

Akaka spoke about bi-partisanship, using a Hawaiian analogy to urge Republicans and Democrats to work together.

"If we paddle together in unison, we can travel great distances. If we paddle in opposite directions, we will go in circles," Akaka said.

Akaka did not seek re-election this year. His seat will be taken by a fellow Democrat, Rep. Mazie Hirono.

He called his tenure “an incredible journey that I never imagined.”

“My goal was to bring the spirit of Aloha to our nation’s capital in everything I do. In Hawaii, we look out for one another, we work together, we treat each other with respect. I hope I succeeded in sharing a little bit of Hawaii with all of you,” he said.

Akaka spoke of his work on veterans’ issues, born of his own experience. He said his life was forever changed by the attack on Pearl Harbor and that he believes he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the war. He credited the GI Bill with allowing him and other veterans to build a “successful, new kind of life.”

“And I say with certainty that I would not be standing before you today without the opportunity the GI Bill gave me, not only to get an education but to have structure and a path forward and a feeling that there was a way for me to help people,” he said.

"God bless Hawaii and God bless the United States of America with aloha," Akaka concluded, saying "a hui hou" — until we meet again.

Senator Akaka's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, before I begin, I would like to take a moment to wish my good friend, my colleague of 36 years, my brother, Dan Inouye, Hawaii's senior Senator, a speedy recovery and return to the Senate.

Mr. President, I rise today to say aloha to this institution. I have been honored to be a member of the United States Senate for 22 years. It has been an incredible journey that I never imagined.

As a senior in high school going to Kamehameha School for Boys, which was noted as a military school, my life was changed forever when I saw Japanese fighter planes attacking Pearl Harbor. Like most men in my generation, I joined the war effort. My path was forever altered.

When the war ended, I believe I was suffering from PTSD.

It was an act of Congress that allowed me, and the veterans of my generation, to build successful new lives.

Congress passed the G.I. Bill. And I say with certainty that I would not be standing here before you today without the opportunity the G.I. gave me, not only to get an education, but to have structure and a path forward, and the feeling that there was a way for me to help people.

This proved to me that when Congress acts responsibly, it can build a better America.

That is why, when I was blessed with the opportunity to lead the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I dedicated myself to helping our servicemembers and veterans and their families, and worked with my colleagues to expand VA services and pass a new 21st Century G.I. Bill.

So I want to take this moment to urge all of my colleagues, and all of the incoming Senators and Representatives: do everything you can for our veterans and their families, because we asked them to sacrifice so much for us.

They put their lives on the line while their wives and husbands watched over their families. Caring for them is one of our most sacred obligations as a nation.

And not everyone on the front lines making our nation stronger wears a uniform.

In many critical fields, the federal government struggles to compete with the private sector to recruit and retain the skilled people our nation needs: experts in cybersecurity and intelligence analysis, doctors and nurses to care for our wounded warriors, accountants to protect taxpayers during billion dollar defense acquisitions. These are just a few examples.

After I leave the Senate, it is my hope that other Members will continue to focus on making the federal government an employer of choice. We need the best and brightest working for our nation.

The work of the United States Congress will never end. But careers come to a close. Like the great men whose names are etched here in this desk, I am humbled to know I have left my mark on this institution.

I am proud to be the first Native Hawaiian ever to serve in the Senate, just as I am so proud to be one of the three U.S. Army World War II veterans who remain in the Senate today.

The United States is a great country. One of the things that makes us so great is that, though we have made mistakes, we change, we correct them, we right past wrongs.

It is our responsibility as a nation to do right by America's Native people, those who exercised sovereignty on lands that later became part of the United States. While we can never change the past, we have the power to change the future.

Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure that my colleagues understand the federal relationship with Native peoples, and its origins in the Constitution.

The United States' policy of supporting self-determination and self-governance for indigenous peoples leads to Native self-sufficiency, resulting in our continued ability to be productive and contribute to the well-being of our families, our communities, and our great nation.

That is why I worked to secure parity in federal policy for my people, the Native Hawaiians.

The United States has recognized hundreds of Alaska Native and American Indian communities. It is long past time for the Native Hawaiian people to have the same rights, the same privileges, and the same opportunities as every other federally-recognized Native people.

For more than 12 years, I have worked with the Native Hawaiian community and many others to develop the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which has the strong support of the Hawaii's legislature and governor as the best path forward towards reconciliation.

My bill has encountered many challenges, but it is pono, it is right, and it is long overdue. Although I will not be the bill's sponsor in the 113th Congress, it will forever bear my highest aspirations and heartfelt commitment to the Native Hawaiian people, the State of Hawaii, and the United States of America.

I know I am just one in a long line working to ensure that our language, our culture, and our people continue to thrive for generations to come.

Hawaii has so much to teach the world and this institution. In Congress and in our Nation, we are truly all together, in the same canoe. If we paddle together, in unison, we can travel great distances. If the two sides of the canoe paddle in opposite directions, we will only go in circles. I urge my colleagues to take this traditional Hawaiian symbol to heart, and put the American people first, by working together.

I want to say mahalo nui loa, thank you very much, to my incredible staff. After 36 years there are far too many individuals to name, so I will just thank my all of my current and former staff members in my Senate and House offices, and on my committees, including Indian Affairs, Veterans' Affairs, and subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.

I want to thank the hundreds of employees who work for the Architect of the Capitol and the Sergeant at Arms. Without the hard work they do every day, we could not do what we do in the Senate.

Mahalo, thank you, to the floor and leadership staff.

I also want to thank Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who has provided me so much guidance and strength, and has done more to bring the two sides of this chamber together and find common ground than just about anyone.

And there is no one I owe more to than my lovely wife of 65 years, Millie. She is literally there for me whenever I need her.

Nearly every day that I have served in the Senate for the past 22 years, Millie has come to the office with me. She helps me greet constituents, she makes me lunch, she keeps me focused, and she makes sure I know what is happening back home.

She means the world to me. Every honor I have received belongs to her and my family. This speech is their farewell speech too. Mahalo Millie and my ohana, my family.

In life, there are seasons.

While leaving Congress is bittersweet, I am looking forward to spending more time with our five children. Getting to know our fifteen grandchildren, and, can you believe this, we are expecting our sixteenth GREAT grandchild next year. And I will be home to see it.

And I am looking forward to speaking with students and mentoring up and coming leaders, and visiting places in Hawaii that I have worked for over my career.

My goal was to bring the spirit of Aloha to our nation's capital in everything I do. In Hawaii, we look out for one another, we work together, and we treat each other with respect. I hope I succeeded in sharing a little bit of Hawaii with all of you.

As I come to the end of twenty-two years in this chamber, and a total of thirty-six years serving in Congress, I offer my profound gratitude and humble thanks to the people of Hawaii for giving me the opportunity to serve them for so many years.

It truly was the experience of a lifetime. All I ever wanted was to be able to help people, and you gave me that opportunity. Mahalo nui loa, thank you very much.

In Hawaii, when we part, we don't like to say goodbye. Instead, we say "a hui hou," which means "until we meet again."

Though I am retiring, I see this as the start of a new chapter, a new season.

And I am blessed have made friendships and partnerships that will last forever.

God bless Hawaii, and God bless the United States of America, with the spirit of Aloha.

A hui hou.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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allie wrote:
nice man but he stayed too long
on December 12,2012 | 06:42AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
All true, a reliable vote but not much original thinking. Maize will carry on the tradition. The real problem for Hawaii will be the departure of the King of Pork.
on December 12,2012 | 07:59AM
frontman wrote:
When a man doesn't even know what room he is in, it's well over time that he goes to the care home. Thanks to who ever pulled the plug on this drain on Hawaii politics.
on December 12,2012 | 10:49AM
Kawipoo wrote:
I watched him on TV say Hawaii was the only state south of the equator. Mazie will carry on the tradition well.
on December 12,2012 | 01:13PM
96706 wrote:
Yep. He stayed too too long. I doubt if he'll be living here in his retirement years. Traveling from DC back to Hawaii will be too much fo a man of his age.
on December 12,2012 | 01:08PM
false wrote:
Senator you represented Hawaii with a lot of class. Thank you.
on December 12,2012 | 01:25PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Thank you, Senator Akaka. You committed yourself to serve Hawaii and America. Enjoy your retirement.
on December 12,2012 | 07:01AM
ike6 wrote:
Mahalo Nui Loa Senator Akaka. Mahalo for your serving your country in WW II and for supporting our veterns. Your sacrifices and support for the people of Hawaii will never be forgotten. Malama Pono and best wishes on your future endeavors. Aloha.
on December 12,2012 | 07:24AM
cojef wrote:
Love this guy, he is so laid back, honest and a gentleman. What more can you ask of a man! He tried his best for Native Hawaiians and unfortunately did not succeed. Sad.
on December 12,2012 | 07:41AM
kainalu wrote:
Mahalo, Danny! You represented the 50th State well!
on December 12,2012 | 07:28AM
ufried wrote:
take a good look at what hawaii voters got for 22 years! yes,votes really do matter. THANK YOU? FOR?
on December 12,2012 | 07:37AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
If we paddle in opposite directions, we will go in circles," Akaka said.

Actually I think we would simply stay in the same place. But hey, it's all good.

on December 12,2012 | 07:54AM
false wrote:
Have you tried?
on December 12,2012 | 01:26PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
No. I avoid actions that are obviously stupid.
on December 12,2012 | 08:31PM
aomohoa wrote:
We welcome your Aloha back here in Hawaii. Enjoy every day of your retirement:)
on December 12,2012 | 07:58AM
mcc wrote:
What did he do besides be a very nice guy? And now we have Mazie. Same question, what does she do? Time for a new slate quickly, Hawaii is in trouble.
on December 12,2012 | 08:05AM
serious wrote:
I think it would be an interesting, informative article if the SA would run a series on how a new senator sets up office, gets her staff--what do they do, how much they are paid, and, also, I understand housing costs are equal to here, so where do they get housing? Does she inherit Akaka's people, or what? Personally, I don't know but would like to know.
on December 12,2012 | 03:06PM
ufried wrote:
I love you too braddah! But you pretty much been retired for the last 22 years...
on December 12,2012 | 08:12AM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 12,2012 | 08:19AM
false wrote:
Akaka accomplished the task of keeping the "Evil Ed Case" (just joking) out of the senate. Petty stuff.
on December 12,2012 | 09:17AM
allie wrote:
fair questions. Hard to dislike what he says in his farewell address. Bromides all.
on December 12,2012 | 09:45AM
Mythman wrote:
I think you would have to be a veteran to fully appreciate what he did for us.
on December 12,2012 | 10:51AM
Venus1 wrote:
Dan Akaka is much loved in Washington and in Hawaii...difficult to put a 'value' on what he did/did not do...at least we can be proud he represented Hawaii...how would you like 'Mitch' as your senator?? Or 'Strom'.....I'll take Akaka...
on December 12,2012 | 09:40AM
ALLDUNN wrote:
I wonder if he knelt and kissed Dan’s ring after his speech. I mean 22 years of doing what Dan said and nothing else deserves acknowledgment.
on December 12,2012 | 09:47AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Mazie inherited that job. In her speech she promised to continue Dan's sterling record of accomplishments. As soon as they were identified.
on December 12,2012 | 10:42AM
Mythman wrote:
He is too gracious to mention that it was his own brother, Rev. Abraham Akaka, who did so much to create the identity known as The Aloha Spirit, a Hawaiian interpretation of Brotherly Love, that has guided Akaka's meaningful life. He never had a thought that would characterize him as a typical politician.
on December 12,2012 | 10:49AM
Anonymous wrote:
There never was any question of his character....just his accomplishments.
on December 12,2012 | 11:19AM
serious wrote:
Agreed, if you get elected here, it's a job for life. Which is sad. Nice gentleman, looks good on photo ops, but I'd like someone who still runs the HNL marathon--someone with some enthusiasm, a toned down Berg!!! But it's obvious we'll not get one for six years in the newest post!!
on December 12,2012 | 03:10PM
mamacita808 wrote:
I love what he said about his wife, how she is everything to him. That was very touching. Aloha Senator Akaka, until we meet again.
on December 12,2012 | 12:21PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
For all of you who have not agreed with Senator Akaka's work in Congress (and I'm one who have not always agreed with him), list all the things you've done in your life which helped Hawaii and/or America. It's easy to comment but harder to actually commit to the state and nation.
on December 12,2012 | 12:29PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
To all those commenting about Senator Akaka's time in Congress and disagreed with him (I'm one who didn't always agree with him), list the things you've done in your life to benefit Hawaii and America. Talk is cheap and easy but to commit to your state and country is a commitment few of us make.
on December 12,2012 | 12:32PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
You miss the point. He's a great guy. He is also our employee. He has been paid - and paid very well through the hard work of the taxpayers. In return it is fair and appropriate to ask - so what have you done for me. The critical comments reflect job performance.
on December 12,2012 | 12:57PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
No, you miss my point. What have YOU done for Hawaii and America that is worthy? I agree that Akaka should have retired a while back but it's easy to critique someone while not contributing yourself.
on December 12,2012 | 01:44PM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 12,2012 | 05:36PM
ohelo wrote:
Akaka represented Hawaii just like his brother, Abraham, did. And from your last snide comment, Danny can sing. Whenever I hear "Hawaiian Lullaby," I am reminded about how well Danny sung. Apparently your remarks mark you as a malihini!
on December 12,2012 | 07:18PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I am not paid by the taxpayer to represent Hawaii. If I was, I'd do a lot more.
on December 12,2012 | 06:03PM
keola2011 wrote:
Mahalo Senator Akaka for all your hard work for the people of Hawaiʻi. Ignore all the arrogant comments below.
on December 12,2012 | 12:33PM
ufried wrote:
1. i pay state taxes. 2. i pay federal taxes. like i said i love the guy, but what took him 22yrs, took manti te'o one... lol
on December 12,2012 | 12:50PM
false wrote:
What really amazes me is it only took you few seconds to say nothing.
on December 12,2012 | 01:28PM
ufried wrote:
always willing to help the simple minded...
on December 12,2012 | 02:13PM
SOLID3 wrote:
A bunch of IDIOTS. He just said that if you work together you can go far. In congress you can not be a one man show, you need the help of otther senators for a majority. He was a champion for Veteran affairs and Native americans and The United States' policy of supporting self-determination and self-governance for indigenous peoples. He was a humble man who never bragged about his work. He was elected by the people of this State who appreciated his work, We live in a democracy and the smart people of this state differ with you IDIOTS.Aloha Senator! As a Veteran I was glad you were there for us.
on December 12,2012 | 03:56PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
He was a champion of unions and a stalwart supporter of Reid. What more could we ask of a Senator from Hawaii. Everyone knew he would never pass his bill to give Indian rights to folks here, but maybe not him.
on December 12,2012 | 06:58PM
false wrote:
Akaka should sponsor a bill to make part of the Senate an Assisted Living Facility for Dan and Harry Reid.
on December 12,2012 | 04:20PM
Tanabe wrote:
Thanks Akaka for your years of service. I may never have been a fan, but I can't doubt you tried your best to represent the State of Hawaii for 36 long years. Enjoy your retirement.
on December 12,2012 | 04:54PM
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