This has been a week of unbearable losses. As a nation mourns for young lives cruelly taken, Alaskans join our Hawaiian friends in affectionately remembering Daniel Inouye. Hawaiian. Japanese-American. War hero. Patriot. United States Senator. During those many years he served alongside the man he called his brother, Ted Stevens, he was called Alaska’s third senator.
Some 20 years ago, when I served as CEO of Alaska’s statewide public radio network, I was asked by Senator Ted to testify in front of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee considering the Corporation for Public Broadcasting appropriation. Daniel Inouye was the Chairman. I spoke about the role of public radio in rural communities throughout Alaska, concluding my remarks with a story of how public radio was responsible for saving the lives of a group of walrus hunters lost in bad weather near St. Lawrence Island. Senator Inouye looked warmly down at me from his Chairman’s perch and said, “Ms. Kaplan, I’ve been to every one of the places you mentioned in your testimony today–and I know exactly what you are talking about.” It was true. He once said he spent as much time in the 49th state as he did in the 50th. When he married Irene Hirano, some years ago, it brought him even closer to us. Irene is Chair of the board of both the Ford Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, important partners of Rasmuson Foundation.
We salute a man who, as his office reported, advocated for his home state of Hawaii with his last breath. His special fondness for Alaska will not be forgotten.