Sen. Daniel Inouye to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom, Highest Civilian Honor

Published: Aug. 8, 2013 at 10:46 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2013 at 3:25 AM HST
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HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now)- President Barack Obama will award the late Senator Daniel Inouye with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made valuable contributions to our country and culture. This year, 16 people were selected.

It's another fitting honor for the humble hero and lifelong public servant.

Senator Inouye received the Congressional Medal of Honor from Bill Clinton in 2000. Now, the two will be honored in the same class with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The late Senator is being recognized for his bravery during World War II as part of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and for breaking barriers as the first Japanese American in Congress, representing the 50th State.

As fate would have it, its the 50th anniversary for this award that was first presented by President John F. Kennedy.

The Senator's widow Irene Hirano Inouye got word of the honor in a special call from "Danny's old friend", Vice President Joe Biden.

"It's wonderful that the President is bestowing this award" said Inouye. "It was the Vice President who called to share the news. He said I told the President I wanted to be the one to share the news with you because the Vice President and Dan had a long relationship so it was very very nice."

She went on to say about her late husband, "As you know, he's very humble and he loved everyday being able to serve people here in the Hawaii and the nation. To receive an honor for something he loved doing, to him would be very special. I think for Dan he would always say that Having been declared an enemy alien following the outbreak of WWII, being able to rise to the President Pro Tempore of Senate is something that only in America could happen. Everyday he was proud to be an American. Proud to be able to serve the country."

Inouye will be honored posthumously along with another groundbreaking American hero, Astronaut Sally Ride, the first woman in space.

Oprah Winfrey, Dean Smith, Gloria Steinem and Loretta Lynn are other notable recipients.

President Obama said in a statement, "This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world." He said it's his honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude.

Inouye expects the medal presentation to happen at the White House sometime in November.

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