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Bill Nelson's touching eulogy about "my friend, our friend, Danny Inouye"

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's seeming silence about the death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye was surprising yesterday, but he was travelling and didn't just want to send out a written statement. So Nelson took to the floor today and gave quite a eulogy.

The text:

Mr. President, I want to speak about my friend, our friend, Danny Inouye.

It’s been a week of emotion, and when you look at that black-draped desk with the white flowers, it’s hard to believe that so much a part of this institution is gone as a living, breathing part of the institution.  But, as a part of its history, its memory, its institutions, its values, Danny epitomized all of that.

That is particularly true that he was first a gentleman.  I guess you’d have to say first he was a patriot.  And, all you need to do to see how much he was a patriot was the fact that he had one arm missing when he charged, single-handedly as that Army Lieutenant, that German machine gun nest and took them out and lost his arm and ended up 20 months in the hospital.  Of course we all know he got the Medal of Honor years later, recognition well-deserved.

A patriot, also though, because of being a public servant for well over a half-a-century. A public servant as a young Lieutenant, a public servant as elected to the first territorial legislature of Hawaii in 1954, elected its first Congressman when it became a state in 1959, and then in 1962 and ever since, a public servant serving his state, the first Japanese-American Senator.  His name is synonymous with Hawaii.  And so it was fitting that it is told by his staff that his last word was “Aloha.”  Patriot.

But second, he was a gentleman. And that is a value that all of us in the U.S. Congress ought to remember.  It all emanates from some of the greatest moral teachings on Planet Earth, what those of us refer to in the New Testament as the golden rule - treat others as you want to be treated.  Or, put in the Old English; do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  That is a principle, a moral principle that runs throughout every major faith on the face of the planet.  Danny Inouye exemplified that value, that uniquely American value.

And somewhere we seem to go on astray.  We go astray now from what we learn in Newtown, Connecticut.  We go astray when we see how some of us treat each other in this chamber.  The old adage is not just to go along, to get along. You get a long a lot better if you get along.  Or to put it in the old country boy wisdom, you can attract a lot more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

That’s the life that our colleague led.  Some people call it a throwback to the gentlemanly days of the United States Senate.  A throwback when courtliness and deference – I hope it’s not a throwback.  I hope we’re not throwing back anything.  I hope we will remember the life of Danny Inouye.  He felt this so strongly that when he was a chairman of committee, he didn’t refer to the ranking Republican as the ranking member.  He called them the vice chairman.  Now, of course, that was uniquely Senator Inouye. But it also was practical.  Because he could get more done if he’s sitting there as chairman and his vice chairman is sitting right there next to him.

And so we have a lot to learn in these emotional times of losing a valued friend and colleague.  But his life exemplifies the best part of the United States Senate.  We can sure get a lot more done if we’d start coming together, just like Danny Inouye taught us all.

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Dr. Ed Holmes

Bill Nelson is a great Senator!

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