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Had he lived, Dan Inouye would celebrate his 95th birthday Sept. 7.
The late U.S. senator from Hawaii died in 2012, but his memory and influence live on. Within a year of his passing Inouye’s name would be attached to a highway, a destroyer, a container ship, an institute, a health center, a research center, a NOAA center, a lighthouse and a college pharmacy.
Now state legislators want to make Inouye’s birthday “United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye Day” every year. The bill comes from Rep. John Mizuno, an Oahu Democrat.
House Bill 1418 does not offer any reason for an Inouye Day other than to say it would be “in memory of Senator Inouye’s long life of public service to the State.” But this is not the first time an Inouye Day has been proposed. In 2017, Rep. Chris Todd, a Big Island Democrat, introduced a similar bill. Mizuno did the same thing in 2016.
So far, there is no Inouye Day. But there is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, something that nearly every House member (including some Republicans) supported in 2016.
House Resolution 50, authored by Rep. Scott Nishimoto, an Oahu Democrat, stated in part that the airport should be renamed for Inouye because he was a “decorated veteran, distinguished United States Congressman and Senator, and devoted son of the islands” who “recognized the importance of a fully functional state airport system that connected the individual Hawaiian Islands, connected Hawaii to the continental United States, and connected Hawaii globally to the rest of the world.”
Fine. But I think Hawaii has now honored Dan Inouye enough already. While there is probably no more important figure in Hawaii over the past half-century, let’s stop with all the renaming.
Mizuno is the author of another measure, House Bill 1419, which would designate Sept. 11 as “United States Senator Daniel K. Akaka Day,” which would be “in memory of Senator Akaka’s long life of public service to the State.”
The senator, who died last year, was born just four days after Inouye in 1924. Sept. 11, of course, marks another significant date — Patriot Day, in remembrance of all those killed in the 2001 terrorist attack.
If Inouye Day and Akaka Day do come to pass, neither would be a state holiday, so that’s a good thing. But a “Barack Obama Day” can’t be far behind, I’m thinking, even though he’s still walking and golfing upon this Earth.
The 44th president’s birthday, Aug. 4, is now celebrated in Illinois, his adopted state. It’s a state holiday.
Obama glorification efforts continue in his birth state. Last year, the Hawaii Senate approved a resolution to commission a monument to Obama, who was born here in 1961. The resolution, sponsored by Oahu Democrat Will Espero, reads in part:
“Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States economy thrived, the national deficit shrank by two-thirds, the national unemployment rate dropped below 5.3 percent, and the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, allowing more than sixteen million Americans to have affordable and quality health care.”
True. But the man had his flaws too. To cite just one example: He launched 540 drone strikes during his two terms, greatly expanding and normalizing their use and killing lots of alleged bad people and a lot of innocent civilians.
Inouye appears to have been no saint, either, and one wonders whether his career would have survived had he lived in the #MeToo era. Allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced over the years, and as recently as last spring. Some have even suggested that Inouye’s name be removed from the airport.
There is another proposal regarding Obama, this one from Rep. Cedric Gates, an Oahu Democrat (I’m seeing a pattern here). House Bill 1440 would set up a temporary commission to “develop and implement initiatives” recognizing Obama, “his historic legacy, and his impact on the State.”
Meantime, Senate Bill 228, which comes from Sen. Stanley Chang — yep, an Oahu Democrat — would task the state Department of Land and Natural Resources with placing historical markers around the state “to indicate significant sites in the life of President Barack Obama.”
The suggested “significant sites” include the Baskin-Robbins on King Street where he worked as a teenager, Island Snow in Kailua which he frequented during the holiday season as president, and Koko Crater Trail, which he hiked up with First Lady Michelle Obama, in addition to places Obama went to school.
In 2016, Rep Mark Hashem (an Oahu Democrat!) introduced House Resolution 22 to designate a “President Barack Obama Birthplace Garden.” The recommended site was a 4,124-square foot state-owned property at 6091 Kalanianaole Highway, land adjacent to Obama’s first home.
“This historic site is on a route to several East Oahu attractions, including President Obama’s favorites Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach, as well as the memorial locations of his mother and grandmother, and the site is passed by thousands of residents and visitors every day,” the House resolution read in part. It failed.
Sandy Beach, you may recall, was proposed for renaming after Obama in 2014 by the Honolulu City Council until the idea was dropped after mixed public reaction. Then-Chair Ernie Martin (Oahu Democrat!), who supported the name change along with then-Councilman Stanley Chang, said maybe the council would name a rail station after Obama instead.
Obama, I should note, already has a number of things named for him outside of Hawaii, among them a parasite (Baracktrema obamai), a hair worm (Paragordius obamai), a fish (Etheostoma Obama), an extinct lizard (the Obamadon), a fungus (Caloplaca obamae), a mountain in Antigua, a service station in Ireland, a university in Guinea and an elementary school on Long Island.
At least we probably won’t have to worry about naming anything in Hawaii after Donald Trump. But then, there is already a Trump International Hotel in Waikiki. Tourists pose for photos in front of it every day.
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