* Ukulele music, political tributes at National Cathedral
* Obama calls Inouye "my earliest political inspiration"
* Shinseki: "I have had the broadest shoulders to stand on"
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 President Barack Obama on
Friday paid tribute to U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War
Two hero who represented Hawaii in Congress for more than 50
years, calling the senator who died on Monday "my earliest
Inouye, who lost his right arm in battle and gained national
attention during the Senate's Watergate hearings, died at age
88. Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe
Biden spoke about Inouye's legacy at a funeral service at the
Washington National Cathedral.
Obama, who was born in Hawaii, recalled seeing Inouye, a
senator not "out of central casting," ask tough questions during
the televised Watergate hearings, which dominated television
during Obama's first-ever visit to the U.S. mainland.
"The person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese
descent with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of
dignity and grace," Obama said.
Obama, then 11, said he was beginning to sense that "fitting
into the world" would not always be easy as the son of a white
woman and black man, and said Inouye captured his attention
between visits to Disneyland and Yellowstone National Park.
"It hinted to me what might be possible in my own life,"
"I think it's fair to say that Danny Inouye was perhaps my
earliest political inspiration."
'ALOHA AND MAHALO'
Inouye enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after the 1941
Japanese attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
The U.S. government had declared Japanese-Americans "enemy
aliens" as a result of the attack, and Inouye, then 17, was
among those who petitioned for the right to serve in the U.S.
military to prove their allegiance.
Inouye lost his right arm while charging a series of German
machine-gun nests on a hill in Italy in 1945.
At the funeral, former President Clinton called Inouye "one
of the most remarkable Americans I have ever known."
"They blew his arm off in World War Two, but they never,
ever laid a finger on his heart," Clinton said.
Between Christian hymns sung by the cathedral's choir and
Hawaiian songs sung by a ukulele trio, Democratic political
leaders lauded Inouye for his humility and ability to find
common ground without giving up on his principles.
"Danny Inouye possessed that intangible thing that every
leader longs to possess, and that is he would never waver on
what he thought was right," Biden said.
Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs and a former
U.S. Army chief of staff, thanked Inouye, who he said paved the
way for generations of Japanese-Americans in public service.
"I have had the broadest shoulders to stand on," said
Shinseki, who is Japanese-American, and was born in Hawaii.
"Aloha senator. Aloha and mahalo."