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December 21, 2012

Obama hails Sen. Inouye

President Obama delivered a eulogy for the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye today, saying he inspired a young Obama to public service.

Obama sat in the front row at the National Cathedral with vice president Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton. He bowed his head as a bell sounded and Inouye's casket was carried in by military honor guard pallbearers. The White House pool report notes that Obama "appeared to be wiping tears from his eyes, as we have seen him do twice in the past somber week."

Obama spoke of watching the Watergate hearings with his mom as a kid and of being fascinated by "this man of Japanese descent ... full of dignity and grace." And as a young boy with a white mom and black father, beginning to realize how difficult it could be to fit in the world, Obama said, he took special note of Inouye, then his home state's U.S. senator.

Inouye clearly wasn't what "central casting" would have sent over to play the role of U.S. senator, Obama said, yet he "commanded the respect of an entire nation." This suggested to him, he said, "what might be possible," and it projected a "powerful sense of hope."

He called Inouye "my earliest political inspiration" and mused that he might not be where he is today if not for that early example.

Sen. John Kerry -- Obama's pick for Secretary of State -- was spotted sitting with Sen. Joe Lieberman a few rows back from Obama.


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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