Former U.S. President Barack Obama has joined the many friends and colleagues of the late U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, who have sent condolences and fond remembrances.
Akaka, who died Friday at age 93 from organ failure, was the highest-ranking Native Hawaiian in elected office. During his political career, which spanned nearly four decades in Congress, Akaka was best known for his advocacy of Native Hawaiians and veterans.
He introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which would become known as the Akaka Bill, in 2000 in an effort to secure federal recognition for the Native Hawaiian people. That measure never became law but did lead to a 2016 Interior Department administrative rule that allows for federal recognition.
Obama, who remembered that he was a teenager when Akaka first served in Congress, said today in a statement, “Michelle and I celebrate the life and service of our friend, Senator Daniel Akaka. He was a tireless advocate for working people, veterans, native Hawaiian rights, and the people of Hawaii.”
Obama said Akaka 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. 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,” he said.
Funeral arrangements for Akaka have not yet been announced.