Senator Daniel Akaka: a day in the life

Senator Daniel Akaka: a day in the life

In January, Senator Daniel Akaka will leave office after serving 36 years in Congress.

Hawaii News Now was given exclusive access to shadow the Senator in our Nation's Capitol, and what we found was an 88 year old who's still as dedicated to the job as ever.

Daniel and Millie Akaka ride into Washington everyday from their home in Alexandria, Virginia. Once a week, they leave especially early - so the Senator can attend his weekly prayer breakfast. "Since I've come to the Senate, I've introduced the singing of hymns," says Akaka. In fact, he's song leader at the Wednesday meetings.

Faith and his deeply religious roots in Kawaiahao church play a big role in how he legislates today, and it may be why he's known around the halls of Congress as 'Mr. Aloha'. "Because of my upbringing, I felt my life was devoted to service and this was service to our country and service to Hawaii," he says.

On any given day, the Akakas open the DC office to 'talk story' with constituents who visit from home. You don't see many spouses on the Hill during work hours, but the Senator likes his wife close by. "He told me, 'No, you have to come up and be with me and take care of me'. I said, 'Okay.' So, I'm up here to make sure that he has his lunch and do other things around here."

Akaka has walked these halls of Congress for nearly four decades - 13 years in the house, 23 in the Senate.

Through the years, he has served alongside Senator Daniel Inouye, countless other Congressmembers, and six Presidents. At 88, he still moves tirelessly from staff meeting to group conference to committee hearing. On the day we followed him from home, he started around 7:00 a.m. and finished after 9:30 at night.

"Even when I know that he's absolutely exhausted, when we've had long days, whatever event that we have, he will always stay, for as long as necessary, to take photos and greet everyone who's there," says press secretary, Jesse Broder Van Dyke.

Even heading from one event to another morphs into a meet-and-greet for the Senator. Staffmembers consider themselves part of the Akaka ohana and are genuinely devoted to their boss.

Senior legislative assistant, Lopaka Baptiste, says "He knows his staff. When you go in and you have something official you want to talk to him about, he also just wants to talk to you as a person."

More than one person told us there are show horses and work horses on Capitol Hill, and Senator Akaka is the latter. He'd probably tell you that himself - but he's too busy heading off to a vote.

Tune in Wednesday, November 21st, as Capitol Hill colleagues - from Dan Inouye to John McCain to Al Franken - give their take on Akaka's legacy.

And in the coming weeks, Hawaii News Now will air a special presentation, "Senator Daniel Akaka: The Aloha Statesman". You won't want to miss these profiles on his long and illustrious career.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.