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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Sen. Daniel Inouye 1924-2012: 12/24/2012

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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We salute the contributions of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, (1924-2012), whose leadership in civil rights, disabilities, and health care capped a remarkable legislative career and life.

In a 2011 interview with Dr. Lindberg for NLM’s Native Voices: Native People’s concepts of health and illness exhibition, Sen. Inouye (D-Hawaii) noted his concern about improving the health and well being of Native Hawaiians and for all Americans.

In the interview, which is excerpted on NLM’s Native Voices website, Sen. Inouye highlighted the success in Hawaii of blending traditional healing with Western medicine.

Sen. Inouye explains his mother was taught Hawaiian traditional healing and says (and we quote): ‘our health program has recognized Native healers — and for the first time we have government programs to support Native healers’ (end of quote). Sen. Inouye praises the combination of traditional healing and Western medicine as an example of the type of innovation that could enhance the health care of many Americans.

You can find excerpts from the Inouye interview by searching on “NLM Native Voices’ in any web search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Excerpts from Sen. Inouye’s interview also are available on NLM’s Native Voices iPad application, which you can find by searching on ‘NLM Native Voices’ in the iPad application’s store.

Sen. Inouye often described his interest in civil rights and disabilities as stemming from life experiences. As a young adult, Japanese-American during World War II, Inouye frequently encountered racial profiling and discrimination. In one story, which was retold in several obituaries following Sen. Inouye’s death, he was denied service in a barber shop (accompanied by racial slurs) just after receiving numerous decorations for combat bravery during World War II.

Incidentally, Sen. Inouye later was awarded the Medal of Honor for courage during a World War II battle where he was wounded in one arm, and then removed a grenade from his partially severed (later amputated) arm before the explosive could kill fellow soldiers.

As several obituaries reported, Sen. Inouye never forgot his heritage, the sting of discrimination, and the challenges of facing life with a disability. Throughout his career, he championed civil rights laws and legislation to provide health care, education, and promote the employment of disabled Americans.

The morning after Sen. Inouye’s death Dr. Lindberg remembered Sen. Inouye’s remarkable demeanor, which might be best described as a self-contained dignity without passivity. Similarly, Lawrence Downes’ editorial in the New York Times captured Sen. Inouye’s accomplishments and character well when Downes praises Inouye’s rare ability to blend (and we quote): ‘political courage, dedication, and modesty’ (end of quote).

Downes explains Sen. Inouye was the rare elected official who secured funding for numerous public works and projects without self-aggrandizement. Downes writes (and we quote): ‘you won’t find the Inouye name on buildings, roads or bridges, he was not that kind of [politician]’ (end of quote).

I should add Sen. Inouye chaired the Senate’s appropriations committee and served on the Senate select committee on intelligence. He was a key member of the Senate committees that held hearings on two famed controversies: the Iran-contra affair in 1987 and Watergate in 1973. The New York Times’ obituary called Sen. Inouye (and we quote): ‘the quiet voice of national conscience’ (end of quote) during both hearings.

Sen. Inouye joined the U.S. House of Representatives when Hawaii became a state in 1959. He was a U.S. senator from 1963-2012 and was the President Pro Tempore (or the longest serving member of the U.S. senate) when he died.

On the evening of Sen. Inouye’s death, I moderated a panel on Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native health at a national meeting sponsored by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. When an audience member reported Sen. Inouye’s death during the session, the panelists (composed of Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native physicians) were deeply saddened. They later emphasized their respect for Sen. Inouye, whom they described as a giant of calm legislative accomplishment and dedication. 

NLM sends its sincerest condolences to Sen. Inouye’s family and his many friends in Hawaii, Capitol Hill, and throughout the nation. On behalf of Dr. Lindberg and the NLM staff that knew Sen. Inouye, we salute and bid fond farewell to an inspirational, multidimensional leader.

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