daniel Inouye portrait on blur background

About US Senator Daniel K. Inouye

US Senator Daniel K. Inouye

SEPTEMBER 7, 1924 – DECEMBER 17, 2012

Senator Daniel K. Inouye is an American hero and statesman whose life and career embodied the values and principles of democracy. Born on September 7, 1924, in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, Senator Inouye was the second longest serving member of the US Senate prior to his death. He served for more than forty-nine years and, as president pro tempore (third in line of presidential succession) from 20102012, he was the highest-ranking public official of Asian descent in US history.

In addition to the bipartisanship and moral courage that marked his political career, Senator Inouye is also recognized for his bravery and heroism in combat during World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, for serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all Japanese American unit, that remains the most highly decorated unit of its size in American history.

Senator Inouye championed the principles of democracy, civil liberties, and justice and played a prominent role in the Watergate and the Iran-Contra investigations. His political career illustrated his belief in America's democracy and both its enduring strength and fragility. This belief and his unwavering commitment to justice would lead to his championing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which resulted in a formal apology and reparations from the US government to individuals of Japanese ancestry who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.

Senator Inouye understood the Constitution as a “living document” that changes over time to meet the needs of “all of its people.” He believed that the Japanese American story validates that contention and celebrates the triumph of American democracy and that our nation should learn from its mistakes, acknowledge, and rectify its past wrongs, and protect our civil liberties, freedom, and democracy. 

The Democracy Center explores the rights, freedoms, and fragility of democracy, helping to build bridges, and find common ground between people of diverse backgrounds and opinions.

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