President Obama came to a veterans cemetery here on Sunday to honor the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, less as the nation’s top politician and more as a native son of Hawaii paying tribute to his roots.
The president had already formally memorialized Inouye (D-Hawaii), who died last week at age 88 after 50 years in the Senate, on Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington.
But on Sunday, sitting between first lady Michelle Obama and Inouye’s wife, Irene, Obama did not speak. He had no formal role at the ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific — nicknamed “Punchbowl” for the terrestrial imprint left by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.
Yet the moment at the cemetery had enormous emotional resonance for the president, who spent many formative years living with his grandparents in Hawaii. In the space of 90 minutes, he would attend the memorial service of a man who from afar had shaped his political thinking and remember another man who directly shaped his life choices.