Some highlights of Sen. Akaka's decades-long career on Capitol Hill

Sen. Akaka
Sen. Akaka

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - US Sen. Daniel Akaka announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in 2012.

The World War II veteran was a school teacher and principal long before entering politics. During his decades-long career in Washington, DC, he perhaps taught us about perseverance as he steadfastly fought for bills he believed in.

Last month, Sen. Dan Akaka made history on Capitol Hill, becoming the first Native Hawaiian to chair the Indian Affairs committee. It was just another ground-breaking accomplishment for the well-liked 86-year-old, known for his wide smile and aloha spirit.

He's America's first senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry, serving since 1990. The former educator also served 14 years in the US House, starting in 1976.

He spent the past decade fighting unsuccessfully for the so-called Akaka Bill, which would have given federal recognition to Native Hawaiians. The latest version of the measure died in the Senate last December.

"I will not give up until the Native Hawaiian people have the same rights to self-governance already afforded to the rest of the nation's indigenous people," he said at the time.

In 2008, Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye fought for long-denied pension benefits and recognition for Filipino veterans.

"I believe it's a moral obligation of this nation to provide for those Filipino veterans who fought under the US flag during World War II," he said at the time.

In 2009, the Vietnam Veterans of America honored Akaka for his public service, service that really began upon his high school graduation. He joined the US Army Corps of Engineers and served during World War II.

"Some doubted that a generation of veterans could reintegrate into society without disaster," he said. "They were wrong. This is because when we come back home, we return to a grateful nation."

But not all of the recognition has been good. In 2006, Time Magazine named Akaka one of America's five worst senators, calling him a "master of the minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee."

"I think that was wrong," he said at the time. "I mean, what is minor? Everything we do is really important and major."

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