February 23, 2015

Ken Inouye Speaks About Father's Tribute Project at UH Manoa

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Ken Inouye reviewed progress for the campus project that will continue the legacy of his late father, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, during a visit to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa on Tuesday, Feb. 17. 

At a meeting in Hamilton Library, Inouye was presented with six site     planning projects for the future Daniel K. Inouye (DKI) Center designed by graduate students of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP).

He later toured a workroom closed to the public and currently in use for archiving the late Sen. Inouye’s congressional papers. The collection will be housed in the DKI Center.

“Just about everything here had some kind of impact on someone’s life or some issue that impacts someone’s life and it’s kind of humbling when you look at it that way,” Inouye said.

He said UH Mānoa “just made sense as a natural home” for the collection of his father’s documents. He also felt that the campus was “well-equipped” for the task of archiving the papers.

“Both my mother and father were UH grads, so there’s a pre-existing sense of aloha for the university,” Inouye said.

Through the archiving of his father’s papers, Inouye said he hopes the project will not only inform students, but inspire them to take an interest in government, whether this means being aware of current events and voting, or running as a candidate for office. 

“On one hand, [Sen. Inouye’s papers] will help political scholars get a better understanding of the state of Hawai‘i and how it interacted in a legislative fashion on the federal level. But it is my hope that we’re able to make this collection something that has a little more impact than that. My father always believed that civic engagement at all levels was very key and he always was very big on trying to get people involved in the political process,” Inouye said. “I personally would like to see the collection ... help further that goal, because I think that’s something he would’ve really been into.”

Inouye explained his father had grown up without the advantages most might associate with a career in politics. Sen. Inouye felt that if he was able make it to the senate, others could get involved politically too.

“He always wanted to go for people to get more involved, especially younger people,” Inouye said.

Sen. Inouye’s mother was orphaned and taken in by several Hawaiian families. Inouye said she frequently reminded his father that “the Hawaiian people have been good to us, they’ve watched out for us.” 

Throughout his life and career, the senator was deeply influenced by aloha and sought to dedicate his life to serving the people of the state.

“Aloha is something we say a lot, we talk about a lot, but you start to really appreciate how important it is once you leave here. The sense of inclusion, welcoming, treating people a certain way – all those concepts that are wrapped up in aloha,” he said. “It all comes from that basic idea. It’s a simple idea, but it’s a powerful idea. When that was [Sen. Inouye’s] last word, it just kind of made sense.”

A legacy in papers

Library archivists at UH Mānoa have been charged with the task of sifting through over 1,200 boxes of Sen. Inouye’s documents, one linear foot in size, according to Congressional Papers Archivist Rachael Bussert.

The archiving process was projected to take three years to complete.

“A lot of people who didn’t even work at the office anymore started volunteering their time to try and help their friends out, their old coworkers, just to try and get this stuff packed,” Inouye said. “It was very much a team effort. There were a lot of folks doing a lot of heavy lifting – literally and figuratively.”

Papers of “high use for researchers” will also be digitized. Bussert believes this will be a large portion of his documents, especially given Sen. Inouye’s role in the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs. 

The collection will be unavailable for 15 years to avoid releasing sensitive information about the federal government or individuals referred to in the papers, as dictated by the donor’s wishes, Bussert said.

In order to preserve fibers of Sen. Inouye’s papers and photos, they are stored in acid-free paper folders and boxes. 

“Plastic actually has a lot of things that could break down over time that might not be good for papers,” said Archives Technician Charise Michelsen.

The workroom is also kept at a stable humidity and temperature, according to Bussert.

Bussert said one of the greatest challenges she’s faced in the archival process was preserving digital items whose formats are often outdated and incompatible with newer technology.

Waiting for supplies to be shipped to Hawai‘i has also been a time-consuming challenge, according to Michelsen.

“Being here and working with his collection, it’s kind of an honor and it’s really exciting,” said Michelsen. “To understand the amount of stuff that he did is really amazing.”

Inouye said he was most personally touched by several letters in the collection his father had sent to other political figures that declined social invitations so he could be with his family.

Designing the DKI Center

Two-person teams of DURP graduate students developed the site plans for the DKI Center, which will eventually replace Henke Hall.

The presentations covered the students’ key design points, many of which focused on sustainability efforts and providing a place for students to congregate.

Site plans featured elements such as bike lanes, rainwater filters, cafes and solar picnic tables.

“The thing I found interesting was how imaginative it was, how creative they all were,” Inouye said. “They’re addressing specific needs, there’s a lot of stuff in there in regards to sustainability.”

Inouye said his father felt that Hawai‘i was especially unique because of its environmental resources.

“You’re not going to have that if you aren’t good caretakers of the land. What’s old is new again – this is something that the Native Hawaiians understood thousands of years ago,” he said.

Inouye will serve as a judge to help select the site plan for the DKI Center.