EXCLUSIVE: Irene Inouye reacts to Presidential Medal of Freedom for Sen. Inouye

Published: Nov. 21, 2013 at 1:07 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2013 at 10:23 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Irene Inouye accepts the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on behalf of her late...
Irene Inouye accepts the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on behalf of her late husband
Senator Daniel Inouye's Presidential Medal of Freedom
Senator Daniel Inouye's Presidential Medal of Freedom
Irene Inouye
Irene Inouye

Hawaii News Now was in the White House East Room as President Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 recipients, including Irene Inouye, accepting on behalf of her late husband.

President Bill Clinton received a round of applause as President Obama put the award around his neck.

It was a Presidential Medal of Freedom from one president to another, on the 50th anniversary of our nation's highest civilian honor.

Fitting company for fellow recipient, Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, because it was President Bill Clinton who presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2000.

In the words of President Obama, "Daniel Inouye was a humble man and didn't wear his Medal of Honor very often. Instead he liked to wear a pin representing good conduct he earned as a teenage private."

President Obama gave Irene Hirano Inouye a hug and kiss as she accepted the medal on behalf of her husband, the honorable Daniel k Inouye.

In an exclusive interview with Hawaii News Now's Tannya Joaquin after the ceremony, medal in hand, Inouye said, "The medal of freedom group this year is extraordinary, sports, politics, civil rights area, feminist movement really represented. A lot of what Dan felt was so important with democracy and equality."

In a one on one interview with Medal recipient Gloria Steinem, Tannya asked, "Do you think we'll see a day in our lifetime when we have a female president?" Her response was "I think so and I think it will be one who actually represents the majority of women."

There was star power in the crowd. We spotted director Steven Spielberg and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard chatting up Gayle King, best friend of the only honoree known by a single name, Oprah.

"Her bosses told her she should change her name to Susie" laughed President Obama. "People can relate to Susie. Turns out they can surprisingly relate to Oprah just fine."

Mrs. Inouye also talked about the significance of this honor and this date, saying "Dan is only 2nd person to receive both the medal of honor and medal of freedom."

Just so happens it's the 50th anniversary of the medal, and marks 50 years since Dan Inouye was first sworn into the Senate to represent the 50th State. Inouye said with a smile, "Lots of 50's that come together so it makes it even more special."

Mrs. Inouye says she will hold onto the medal for a short while. Eventually it will be housed on the UH Manoa campus where plans are in motion for a center in her late husband's honor.

Tomorrow on Hawaii News Now, Tannya's exclusive reports continue from Washington D.C. with a look at how the Senator's legacy is being shared in tangible and symbolic ways.

Follow Tannya Joaquin:   

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.