By Wendy Osher
A series of accolades including a lifetime achievement award were bestowed upon U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka today during a luncheon at the Maui Tropical Plantation.
The event, hosted by the Maui Veterans Council, honored Sen. Akaka for his years of dedication to the veterans of Maui.
“As a veteran of WWII, you have been the point-man with the VA, Congress, and President on our behalf,” said Bill Staton, who joined fellow veterans in presenting a hand crafted paddle as symbol of Akaka’s leadership role as a “steersman.”
“You have opened up doors. You listened to the needs and suffering of hundreds of our Maui veterans, wounded veterans, and their families. Then, you raised us as your own with that welcoming and comforting smile–providing a hopeful rainbow in our darkest days,” said Staton.
In accepting the award, Sen. Akaka said, “What else can I say, but to tell you that for me.. it is a melody of thanks giving. I have so much to be thankful for,” he said.
Speaking from shoulders piled high with fresh flower lei, Akaka said, “With all of this, I look upon each lei as a lei of aloha that has been given to me from these folks; and it’s really an event of thanksgiving for me to them,” he said.
“They’ve been so gracious–the people of Maui–to give me this honor and this recognition; and without question, this will be with me for the rest of my life,” said Akaka.
Akaka who had already announced his plans to retire at the end of his term in 2012 said, he was grateful of the opportunity and the privilege to serve the people of Hawaii.
“It was very difficult for me to accept the idea of retiring because I love this job–because I like to help people and I have been able to with my seniority to help the people, especially the people of Hawai’i,” he said.
“My hope is that I can also, even in my retirement, touch the hearts of our young people and try to get them to feel and understand that the spirit of Hawai’i is a mission that we have with the rest of our country and the world.”
In response to inquiries about the recent wrangling in Washington, Sen. Akaka said, “I feel that there needs to be occasions where they can get together and talk–and let me just go far by saying–even have a picnic together; A time when it’s not legislation, but it’s relationships. I think by developing these relationships it would make a difference in what they do legislatively,” said Sen. Akaka.
Proclamations were also delivered today from the Governor’s office, Maui County Mayor and Council, and State Legislature. Individual community groups were also on hand to offer awards and care packages including a Ko’i Award from the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, and accolades from the Fil-Am Veterans, Molokai Veterans Careing for Veterans, and others.
“This outpouring of aloha, friendship, and admiration today says it all on how beloved you are in our community,” said Staton.
“Mahalo nui loa for your watchful eye and steady hand in steering our Maui veteran’s canoe through troubled waters to our bright and healthy future,” said Staton.