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Public Statements

FISA Amendments Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FISA AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - February 06, 2008)

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the U.S. Senate has been conducting its business here in Washington for just over 200 years. For more than one-fifth of that time, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has been casting rollcall votes. And just now, he cast his 15,000th, making him the fourth most prolific voter in Senate history.

If Senator Inouye had anything to say about it, I have no doubt the moment would have passed without fanfare. Some Senators make their presence felt by talking a lot or by being flamboyant. Dan Inouye has always been another sort of Senator.

He is one of only 107 Americans alive today to have received the Medal of Honor for combat bravery. He is the iconic political figure of the 50th State, the only original member of a congressional delegation still serving in Congress. And he has ensured through many years of diligent service on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that an entire generation of America's uniformed military has gone well prepared into battle and was well cared for when they returned.

Despite all this, Dan's quiet demeanor and adherence to a code of honor and professionalism has made him a stranger to controversy and to the fleeting fame that often comes with it. He is a man who has every reason to call attention to himself but who never does. He is the kind of man, in short, that America has always been grateful to have, especially in her darkest hours, men who lead by example and who expect nothing in return.

Historians tell us about one of those dark moments early in our Nation's history, just after the surrender at Yorktown. Hostilities with the British had ended, but America was on the brink of a military coup. Congress had promised to give officers and soldiers back pay, food, and clothing, and hadn't delivered. The situation grew so serious that U.S. officers threatened an armed revolt.

In a meeting at Newburgh, George Washington urged patience. He assured the officers Congress would act justly. And then, with anger and impatience still in the air, he pulled a letter from his pocket from Congress. Staring at it for a few moments with a look of confusion, he reached into his pocket again and pulled out a pair of reading glasses that only his closest advisers had ever seen. ``You will permit me, gentlemen, to put on my spectacles,'' he said. ``For I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country.''

Some of the officers wept with shame. One man's heroism was enough to dissolve whatever hostilities remained. Revolt was averted, peace preserved, and a roomful of men learned that day what it meant to be an American.

More than a century and a half later, after another dark moment in our Nation's history, another roomful of men would learn a similar lesson. The year was 1959, the place was the U.S. Capitol, and a young man named Daniel Inouye was being sworn into office.

The memory of a hard-fought war against the Japanese was fresh in many minds as the Speaker, Sam Rayburn, prepared to administer the oath--not only to the first Member from Hawaii, but to the first American of Japanese descent ever elected. Rayburn spoke: ``Raise your right hand and repeat after me .....''

Here's how another Congressman would later record what followed: ``The hush deepened as the young Congressman raised not his right hand but his left and repeated the oath of office. There was no right hand. It had been lost in combat by that young American soldier in World War II. And who can deny that, at that moment, a ton of prejudice slipped quietly to the floor of the House of Representatives.''

As a young boy growing up in Hawaii, DAN and his friends always thought of themselves as Americans. But after Pearl Harbor, they found themselves lumped together with the enemy. It was one of the reasons so many of them felt such an intense desire to serve. Their loyalty and patriotism had been questioned, and they were determined to show their patriotism beyond any doubt.

At first they weren't allowed to volunteer. A committee of the Army, caving to prejudice, recommended against forming a combat unit of Japanese Americans. But they persisted, and on June 5, 1942, the policy changed.

In reversing the previous order, President Roosevelt said, quote, ``Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart. Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.''

The overwhelming response of Japanese Americans proved Roosevelt right. Eighty percent of the military-age men of Japanese descent who lived in Hawaii volunteered for the first-ever, all-Japanese-American combat team. And among the 2,686 accepted was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Hawaii named DAN INOUYE.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the famous ``Go for Broke'' regiment, would become the most decorated military unit in American history. SGT DAN INOUYE was one of its combat platoon leaders. He spent 3 bloody months in the Rome Arno campaign and 2 brutal weeks rescuing a Texas battalion that was surrounded by German forces, an operation military historians often describe as one of the most significant military battles of the 20th century.

After the rescue, Sargeant INOUYE was sent back to Italy, where on April 21, 1945, he displayed ``extraordinary heroism,'' in leading his platoon through tough resistance to capture an important strategic ridge. Crawling within five yards of the nearest machine gun, he destroyed it with grenades, then stood up and destroyed several others machine gun nests at close range--even as a sniper's bullet shattered his arm. Despite the pain, he continued to direct his men until the enemy's retreat, and become one of the most decorated soldiers of the war.

DAN would later spend nearly 2 years in an Army hospital in Battle Creek, MI, and it was there that he met a wounded soldier, as the majority leader mentioned, from Kansas. DAN had always wanted to be a surgeon, but that dream faded away on a ridge in Italy. He decided to ask his friend what he had in mind for a career. Politics was the reply. DAN was intrigued. And many years later, as a freshman in Congress, he wrote a note to Bob Dole, playfully taunting him for not making it here first.

It is fitting that DAN owes his Senate career, in a sense, to a Republican. He has never let narrow party interests stand in the way of friendship or cooperation on matters of real national importance. His friendship with Senator STEVENS is one of the most storied in all of Senate history. And I know I have never hesitated to call DAN when I thought something important was at stake. As DAN has always said, ``to have friends, you've got to be a friend.''

It is a good principle, and it is one he has always lived up to. But it is just one of the remarkable traits that have made him one of America's great men.

On the morning of his first day in the Army, Dan rode part of the way to the barracks on a bus with his dad. He later recalled that at one point his father grew somber, offered his first son some brief advice about the importance of having good morals, then said something about the country he would soon defend.

``America has been good to us,'' his father said. ``And now--I would never have chosen it to be this way--but it is you who must try to return the goodness of this country.''

Dan Inouye would make his father very proud. He has more than repaid the goodness of this country. I know I speak for every other Senator who has served with him, the people of Hawaii, and anyone who respects this institution or loves this country, when I say thank you for the dignity, the grace, and the heroism with which you have lived your great American life. You are an example and an inspiration to all of us.

I yield the floor.

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