Sen. Daniel Inouye's death Monday marked the closing of the most important chapter of Hawaii's life as a state to date.
His quiet leadership built modern Hawaii. The war hero who gave his right arm for his country gave his heart for his state. He proudly wore the title "Senator Earmarks" for bringing home the money that built highways, schools, supercomputers, technology parks, telescopes and, of course, the massive military presence that defends our country.
Inouye and friends like the late Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi also built the Democratic Party into a force in Hawaii. Inouye served in the Territorial Legislature and, then, in 1959, he became Hawaii's first member of the United States House of Representatives. Three years later, he was elected to the United States Senate and remained there for 50 years until his death.
Even though he was a quiet man, he was a larger-than-life figure. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he wielded immense authority. His wartime heroics won him - belatedly - the country's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Monday that even though Inouye was a strong member of the Democratic caucus, he exemplified bipartisanship. Reid said Inouye considered former Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens "a brother." They worked together to build their states and the country.
In a 2010 endorsement of Inouye's re-election, the following observations were made in this space:
"He is first and foremost a patriot of the first order. . . . His championship of the military in the Pacific is not merely bringing home the largesse for his home state - it is a realization that by dint of our geography, we are the first defense from some would-be enemies in the Far East.
"He is also Hawaii's champion. While many criticize his use of earmarks, the senator has carefully used them to improve Hawaii's infrastructure, diversify our economy, and bring the latest in technological advances to our state. That technology lights the imagination of our young people and provides opportunities that were unthinkable a generation ago."
It is hard to imagine a more successful politician than Daniel Inouye. He lifted up his own generation and gave hope to generations to come.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.