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Akaka says aloha to Congress

By Jill Kuramoto
Published On: Dec 12 2012 10:36:10 AM HST
Updated On: Dec 13 2012 07:09:29 AM HST

Senator Akaka gives his last congressional address as the first-ever Native Hawaiian US Senator.

WASHINGTON -

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka is the country's first Native Hawaiian Senator and the first Native Hawaiian to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

He was first elected to the U.S. House in 1976 and appointed to the Senate in 1990.

His last day in office will be Jan. 2.

For the final time in his 36-year career in Congress, Sen. Akaka formally addressed his colleagues on Wednesday.

"It’s been an incredible journey that I never imagined," said Akaka.

In his 20-minute speech, Akaka reflected on how joining the war effort following the attack on Pearl Harbor changed his life forever and he revealed a very personal issue.

"When the war ended, I believe I was suffering from PTSD," said Akaka.  "It was an act of Congress that allowed me, and the veterans of my generation, to build successful new lives."

Akaka said the GI Bill provided him the support he needed and it's one reason the senator said he lobbied so heavily for veterans affairs throughout his career.  He urged his colleagues to continue to support our troops.

"Do everything you can for our veterans and their families who we asked to sacrifice so much for us," said Akaka.

On the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the Akaka Bill, the senator said even after 12 years fighting to get it passed, he still believes it's the right thing for the future generations of Native Hawaiians.

"Although I will not be the bill’s sponsor in the 113th Congress, it will forever bear my highest aspirations and heartfelt commitment to the native Hawaiian people, the state of Hawaii and the United States of America," said Akaka.

Akaka said he looks forward to speaking with students and mentoring up and coming leaders, as well as spending time with his 15 great grandchildren.

In his speech, he thanked his fellow senators, his wife Millie and his staff.  He also thanked the people of Hawaii for allowing him the opportunity to serve for so many years.

"In Hawaii, when we part, we don’t like to say goodbye.  Instead we say 'a hui hou,' which means 'until we meet again,'" said Akaka, before yielding the floor.

Click here to read the entire speech transcript.  Click here to watch the video.

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