Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) : Remembering Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Posted on December 18, 2012

   In 1973, George Gallup, the pollster, asked to come see him.  This was at the height of the Watergate hearings.  Back then, these investigations into President Nixon's Watergate break-in were consuming the country.  Then there were only three major television networks, plus the Public Broadcasting System, and the Watergate hearings were televised from the Senate every single day, for several hours a day, on all four of those networks.  So, almost everyone in the country watched the Watergate hearings for weeks.  They got to know Sam Ervin, the chairman.  They got to know Howard Baker, the ranking Republican.     But George Gallup came to see Senator Inouye.  And Senator Inouye said, I am glad to see you, but why do you come to see me? 

   He said, Senator, who would you say is the most recognized person in the United States today?  Senator Inouye said, Well, I am sure President Nixon is.  And Gallup said, That is right.  But the second most recognized person is Senator Dan Inouye. 

   Inouye said, Well, how could that be?  George Gallup said, Well, Senator, I suspect so many Americans have never seen a United States Senator of Japanese ancestry with one arm and a distinguished voice and presence, and you have made an indelible impression on the American people. 

   That was 1973.  That was a long time ago.  Since then, Dan Inouye made an indelible impression on a great many people around the world, and especially on the 100 of us who serve here.  He commanded our respect in a remarkable way, in part because of his service in the war. 

   He and Bob Dole, our former colleague, were wounded at about the same time in Europe and were in the same hospital recovering from tremendously serious wounds.  Of course, Senator Inouye was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for that. 

   Senator Pryor was telling the story that when Senator Inouye was finally elected to Congress, he wrote Senator Dole a note and said, I am here, where are you?  Because both of them, when they were recovering from their war wounds, had determined that one day they wanted to serve in the United States Congress.  Inouye got here first   

A few years ago, Senator Inouye and Senator Ted Stevens invited a number of us to go with them to China.  It was quite an experience.  Senator Stevens -- of course, another World War II veteran -- had flown the first cargo plane into what was then Peking, in 1944.  Of course, Senator Inouye was well regarded in China for his service.  So the group of Senators -- there must have been a dozen of us of both parties -- got more time with Mr. Hu and Mr. Wu, the No. 1 and 2 leaders of China, than the President of the United States nearly did.  We were accorded every courtesy possible because of the presence of Senator Inouye and Senator Stevens.  They were like brothers.  They called one another brothers.  They acted that way in private.  They served that way in the Senate, as chairman and vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.  Over a number of decades, they singlehandedly shaped our American defense posture, and they did it with skill and patriotism and knowledge of our structure that very few could have.

    Several Senators mentioned how bipartisan Dan Inouye was.  He was of the old school -- not a bad school for today, in my point of view.  He treated each Senator with courtesy, even the newer Senators.  He treated each Senator with a sense of equality, even those who were in the minority and not on his side of the aisle.  He was always fair, he was always courteous, and he always tried to do the right thing.  He was a textbook U.S. Senator.

    He announced for reelection after his last election.  I don't know his exact age at the time -- maybe 85, 86.  He will not be able to run for that reelection now that he is gone, but he will be well remembered.

    Not long ago, he spoke at our Wednesday morning Prayer Breakfast that we have here.  Usually we have 20 or 30 Senators.  On the day he spoke, we had maybe 60 or 70.  We had Senators sitting on the windowsills, standing around the back, just to hear what he had to say.  I won't repeat what he had to say because we don't talk about what goes on there in public except to say he talked about his war experiences -- and in a quiet way.  He stood there for 10 or 15 minutes and explained those experiences to us, most of whom had never had that sort of experience.  It gave us a new sense of him, and it increased our respect for him, if that could have been possible.

    I join with my colleagues to say Senator Dan Inouye was a patriot.  He set the standard, really, for a U.S. Senator.  He set the standard for a man or woman in our military fighting to defend his or her country.  And he set the standard as an individual who showed courtesy to everyone he met.  We will miss him.  We honor him.  And we give his family our expressions of grief, but, more important, our great respect for our colleague who today is gone.

 

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