Inouye remembered as friend and hero during memorial in Washington

President Obama, Vice President Biden remember Sen. Inouye
Charles Dharapak/AP
Charles Dharapak/AP

Friends and colleagues of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye remembered him as a friend and hero during a public memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. on Friday, saying he "embodied aloha" and inspired many during his years in the nation's capitol.

A Washington D.C.-based Hawaiian music group called The Aloha Boys played music as an estimated crowd of close to 2,000 filed into the church for the service, which began at 4:50 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time. Among those in attendance were President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton, who sat next to each other during the ceremony and would each speak in turn about their memories of Inouye.

After Hawaii Senator-elect Mazie Hirono read from Lamentations, General Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs, talked about Senator Inouye's military service and the work he did for military veterans in the United States Senate.

"This morning I salute a friend who was more than heroic in battle," said Shinseki. "We all stand on the shoulders of those have came before us, and I have had the broadest shoulders to stand on."

Shinseki also saluted Inouye and the other Nisei war veterans of World War II.

"They taught us to hope and to dream, and then to do something about it," said Shinseki.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid leaned upon a lesson he says Inouye taught members of Congress during his tribute to the late senator.

"Dan taught the nation that 'aloha' means not just hello, not just goodbye, but I love you," said Reid. "Aloha, I love you, and goodbye until we meet again."

Former president Bill Clinton said that Inouye "never tired of sensing when the moment had come to say what needed to be said" and that he cherished his relationship with the senior senator from Hawaii.

"If Dan Inouye was your friend, he didn't care whether the sun was shining or the storm was waging," said Clinton. "He was there."

Clinton also mentioned one honor in particular that he was especially fond of.

"I am grateful that I had the chance to put around his neck the Medal of Honor, which was given to him and 21 others almost 50 years too late," referring to a 2001 ceremony at the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden, who also spoke during Thursday's memorial at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, spoke glowingly of the influence Inouye had on him throughout their relationship.

"With the exception of my father, there are few people I've ever looked at and said 'I wish I could be more like that man. He's a better man than I am.' That's how I looked at Danny, and I told him so."

Biden was behind one of the few lighthearted moments of the service, garnering chuckles from the crowd when he revealed Inouye's response.

"He told me my judgment was flawed," said Biden.

Speaking near the end of the ceremony, President Obama told a heartfelt story about vacationing with his family as a child and spending his evenings watching Daniel Inouye chair the Watergate hearings on television. (Click HERE to read Obama's speech)

"The person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent, with one arm, speaking in a courtly baritone full of dignity and grace," said Obama. "The way he commanded the respect of an entire nation hinted to me what might be possible in my own life."

That experience, watching a man who possessed "a fundamental integrity," helped mold a child from Hawaii into a future President of the United States.

"It's fair to say that Danny Inouye was my earliest political inspiration."

In closing, Obama was both reverential and personal.

"We remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage and moved us with his compassion," said Obama. "He inspired us with his integrity and taught so many of us, including a young boy growing up in Hawaii, that America has a place for everyone."

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