Praise for the late Sen. Akaka
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga described the late former US Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka as “a true friend and a patriarch to American Samoa” while Congresswoman Aumua Amata said Akaka was a “gracious and a humble Statesman.”
Akaka died last Thursday, Apr. 5 in Honolulu at the age of 93, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper.
The Associated Press reports that Akaka was the first Native Hawaiian elected to Congress and served for more than three decades, starting at the US House and later the US Senate.
In a statement last Friday afternoon, Lolo says he’s “truly saddened” by the news of the passing of Akaka, “who is one of our Polynesian icons who championed issues affirming the identity of our Polynesian ethnicity in the Halls of Congress.”
Akaka “was kind and genuinely concerned about issues affecting the territory and the lives of the people of American Samoa,” said the governor, who recalled that Akaka “always embraced and welcomed any delegation from American Samoa who travelled to the nation’s capital and who reached out to him to advocate for issues impacting our people and the development of our territory.”
Akaka retired from Congress in 2013 and Lolo said, “We missed his leadership and influence in Washington D.C.”
The governor went on to describe Akaka as an “unassuming, humble and silently audacious leader unafraid to advance issues advancing the quality of the lives of the people of the Pacific and not particular to the people of Hawaii.”
“We have certainly lost a great and compassionate leader who committed his life to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity and the chance to better their lives,” he said.
On behalf of the leaders and people of American Samoa, along with Lt. Gov. Lemanu Sialega Palepoi Mauga, the governor “expresses our deepest condolences” to Akaka’s widow, the children, extended family and the people of Hawaii, over the passing of “one of our Polynesian heroes, our mentor, and our champion.”
Akaka “has set the leadership pathway and leadership standard for leaders of the Pacific to emulate. May he rest in peace,” Lolo concluded.
Amata in a news release last Friday morning said that she both mourns and celebrates the life of the former US senator, who was “a gracious and humble Statesman, whom I have had the privilege of knowing my entire life.”
Akaka and his wife were “dear friends” of Amata’s parents. Amata described Akaka as “a role model to countless Hawaiian and other Pacific Island leaders and a true mentor and inspiration to many, including myself, to become public servants.
“He was a tireless advocate beyond Hawaii to American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Guam, Palau and the Marianas and elsewhere throughout the Asia-Pacific region stemming from his early days as an educator having received both his Masters and Undergraduate degrees in Education from the University of Hawaii,” she said, adding that Akaka “taught many, taught them well and led humbly by example.”
“Having known Senator Akaka is something for which I am truly grateful,” she said, noting that Akaka had a “long and distinguished life of service dedicated not only to the people of Hawaii, but also to the people of American Samoa and throughout our Country and all over the greater Asia-Pacific region.”
“He was a great man who did a great deal for everyone. He was a strong advocate for native Hawaiians and all Pacific Island people, especially American Samoa. He was a tremendous advocate for our Veterans, of which he was one having served in the Army in World War II,” she points out.
Amata remembered “the wonderful opportunity” speaking with Akaka in Honolulu during the funeral service of the late Hawaii US Rep. Mark Takai in 2016 when Akaka was “in remarkable shape at age 91 and was engaged as ever in discussing the issues to help Hawaii and American Samoa just as always.”
“It was good to be with him and I will greatly miss him as I know all of Hawaii and American Samoa will and people around our Country and the World will too. The Aloha spirit is alive and well more than ever because of the life of Senator Daniel Akaka. My thoughts and prayers go out to all his friends, family and constituents as well,” she said.
In a brief statement, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Akaka “lived a life of service and aloha, and each of us in Hawaiʻi has benefited in countless ways. Our state mourns the loss of this man of upright character.”
US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is an American Samoa native, in a statement remembered her “dear friend and mentor” Akaka, who “dedicated his life to serving the people and our nation, in the U.S. Army, as a public school teacher” and in the US Congress.”
“His legacy of service and aloha will continue to inspire each of us to live aloha every day — serving others, protecting our planet, and fighting for justice, equality, and peace,” she said.
Hawaii US Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement that Akaka was beloved by everyone in Hawai’i, and his colleagues of both parties in Washington DC. “A pure heart, a determined warrior for native Hawaiians, and a true public servant.” he said.
His wife, Mary Mildred “Millie” Chong, four sons, a daughter and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, survive Akaka. Funeral service is pending.