Akaka in Congress since 1976
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By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
Daniel K. Akaka, the 81-year-old junior senator from Hawai'i, is among the members of the "Greatest Generation" who have helped define the youngest state and its politics.
Quiet, self-effacing and prone to concentrating on Hawai'i-based issues and a few key national topics, Akaka can be outspoken when he feels the situation warrants.
Three days before the war with Iraq, when patriotic feelings were running high, Akaka gave a scathing critique of the Bush administration's plans, saying the president did not have the support of key allies, a plan for a long occupation or a clear exit strategy.
His work on Hawai'i issues has also involved taking controversial stances.
Working with Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Akaka helped secure the 1993 apology resolution in which the United States formally apologized for its role in the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawai'i.
He took his support for Hawaiians to the next level when he introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, better known as the Akaka bill.
The legislation would create a process for Hawaiians to form their own sovereign government, and has been contested at home and by conservative senators in Congress.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is expected to examine the legislation today.
Akaka is the ranking member on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management, the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks Historic Preservation and Recreation, and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia.
He serves on the Indian Affairs Committee and chairs the Congressional Task Force on Native Hawaiian Issues.
The Senate's first member of Hawaiian ancestry and the only Chinese-American senator, Akaka enlisted in the Army after graduating from the Kamehameha School for Boys, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1943 to 1947.
He returned to Hawai'i after the war and enrolled in the University of Hawai'i, becoming a teacher and moving rapidly upward in the state Department of Education.
He was elected to the U.S. House in 1976 and appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1990 when Sen. Spark Matsunaga died.
Reach Karen Blakeman at email@example.com.