WASHINGTON — The late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye was one of 16 people to receive the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Nov. 20 at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
President John F. Kennedy established the medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, 50 years ago.
Inouye served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor, the highest medal for servicemen, in 2000. Inouye went on to represent the state of Hawai‘i in both houses of Congress after the war.
According to a White House statement, Obama described Inouye as “a humble man” who “didn’t wear his Medal of Honor very often. Instead, he liked to wear a pin representing the Good Conduct Medal he earned as a teenage private. ‘To behave yourself takes special effort,’ he said, ‘and I did not want to dishonor my family.’ Danny always honored his family and his country, even when his country didn’t always honor him.
“After being classified as an ‘enemy alien,’ Danny joined a Japanese American unit that became one of the most decorated in World War II. And as the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people — including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawai‘i who noticed that there was somebody during some of those hearings in Washington that didn’t look like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important, too. He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard.”
Inouye died on Dec. 17, 2012 at the age of 88.