Aloha Senator: Daniel K. Akaka

By Paula Akana
Published On: Nov 20 2012 09:38:00 AM HST

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka prepares to leave Congress behind as they wrestle to avoid the fiscal cliff.

HONOLULU -

Big activity at the Hawaii and Washington D.C. offices of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka as time ticks down to his retirement.

Here at the Hawaii office, staffers are packing up official business as well as the many mementos.  In Washington, they are boxing up everything from files to neckties.

"My staff tells me I have 1,000 boxes to go through and that's only for the office," said Akaka.  "Now the home things we've collected over the years.  So, the first stage is to give away as much as we can and promise furniture to different people."

Thirty-six years of blood, sweat and tears -- a huge part of Akaka's life.

"I will really miss my colleagues there and trying to meet the needs of Hawaii, because that was constant," said Akaka.

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, in 1990 he was appointed to the U.S. Senate following the death of Spark Matsunaga.

He won re-election and has remained in Washington ever since building his seniority, using the Aloha Spirit to break down barriers and to build relationships.

"This is why I tried to be very friendly with all the people that I work with and it makes a difference," said Akaka.  "They don't look upon you as a threatening factor.  They're willing to talk to you about things and very often we disagree, but at least we are able to come to some sort of an agreement."

Akaka lists among his accomplishments bringing the private sector to work with NASA and his work with veterans as the senior member of the Armed Services Committee.

His biggest frustration -- more than a decade of not getting the Akaka Bill passed.

"Usually it comes down to the reason of race, which is wrong because Native Hawaiians are indigenous people of Hawaii, like the American Indians and Alaskan natives," said Akaka.

Akaka is known for making time for his constituents who visit Washington, and says he will miss helping Hawaii through his efforts in Washington.

"That part, of course, I won't have.  I'll certainly miss it," said Akaka.  "But then, I know that there are different seasons for different things and we need a new generation there."

Besides spending time with his family, Akaka hopes to become a mentor.

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