Senator Akaka Honored for 35 Years of Public Service
Washington, D.C.–What a way to go into retirement! At a reception on June 21 honoring U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, chants of “Aloha!” and “Mabuhay!” (Long live!) filled the air, as colleagues, friends and admirers showered the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs with affection and accolades.
Truly, it was a lovefest. Through it all, Senator Akaka, who came with his wife Millie, humbly acknowledged the tributes, the cheers, and a program with special hula dances. Akaka, 87, has been in public service for 35 years, starting in 1976 as a congressman in Hawaii.
Retired U.S. Army General Antonio M. Taguba introduced the honoree. “Senator Akaka is a quintessential leader with a long record of achievements,” he noted. “His loyal and faithful service to our nation truly exemplifies the virtues of leadership excellence in public service.”
He enumerated Akaka’s impressive achievements – “from strengthening public education opportunities, to promoting efficient, clean and renewable energy, to preserving and protecting civil rights and immigration rights, to championing diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and protecting the rights and benefits for our nation’s veterans, and more.”
Summing up, he said the senator “is a man of unquestionable integrity, a man fraught with humility, a giant among the champions serving the needs of common people, a loving husband and caring family man, an American patriot, and most of all, a leader with impeccable character.”
Dante Basco emceed the three-hour evening celebration of Akaka’s years of public service. Vida Benavides, member of the host committee, said there were 200 people who registered for the event. Venue was the Human Rights Campaign in the nation’s capital.
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, his fellow Democrat from Hawaii, led the distinguished list of speakers, along with former U.S. Commerce and later Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
Speakers also included other lawmakers from Hawaii – Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, who is running for Akaka’s seat this November; Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia; WWII veteran Celestino Almeda; former Congressman Bob Underwood; Luisa Antonio, executive director of the Veterans Equity Center in San Francisco, California, who presented a book on the veterans, and former White House presidential adviser for domestic affairs Irene Bueno.
Akaka graciously thanked everyone. He said “Salamat po” (Thank you) to Senator Inouye, and all who helped Filipino World War II veterans obtain their pension, “including the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE).”
The two senators teamed up to get Congress to pass the pension legislation. Akaka said it was the right thing to do “to fulfill the promises we made to all those who served.”
He paid tribute to “the brave men who did so much for the United States.” One of them, Almeda, age 95, thanked Akaka and Inouye profusely, on behalf of his fellow veterans.
The Reception Host Committee was composed of the following leaders: Loida Lewis; Bing Cardenas Branigin, Irene Bueno, Melissa Hampe, Rosie Abriam, Lourdes Tancinco, Ms. Benavides, Gloria T. Caoile, retired U.S. Army General Taguba, Sonia Aranza, Tessie Guillermo, Erwin de Leon, Daphne Domingo, Gem Daus, Jason Lagria, Melvin Tabilas, APALA Ed Fund, APAICS, Naomi Tacuyan Underwood and Paulo Pontemayor.