On November 20, the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. On behalf of the Senator, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye accepted the award from President Obama at a ceremony at the White House.
President Obama said during the ceremony that he himself had been inspired by the late Senator: "As the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people--including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawaii who noticed that there was somebody during some of those hearings in Washington that didn't look like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important, too." President Obama continued, "He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard," touching upon the Japanese American legacy that the Senator carried.
Established by President John F. Kennedy, the Medal of Freedom has been presented to more than 500 individuals so far who have made especially “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The 15 other recipients of the 2013 award included former President Bill Clinton, journalist Ben Bradlee, singer Loretta Lynn and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. See the White House blog post and President Obama's remarks for further details.