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Obama, lawmakers mark end of mournful week

December 21, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • President Obama pauses during a meeting with Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, Chief of Staff Jack Lew and Pete Rouse, counselor to the president, to observe a moment of silence in the Oval Office.
President Obama pauses during a meeting with Director of Communications… (Pete Souza / White House…)

WASHINGTON -- Washington officials marked the close of a somber week on Friday by observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting and attending the funeral of Sen. Daniel Inouye.

At 9:30 a.m., roughly the time of the slayings one week ago, offices in the White House and on Capitol Hill fell silent except for the sound of a bell tolling on television monitors.

President Obama observed the moment quietly in the Oval Office, aides said.

Soon after, he climbed into the presidential limousine for a solitary ride to the National Cathedral to mark the death of the 88-year-old Inouye, a Democrat who represented Obama’s childhood home of Hawaii for 50 years.

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Speakers at the funeral recalled Inouye's bawdy jokes and praised his service in the military and the Senate.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada alluded to the pall over the Capitol this week as the nation mourned the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School and lawmakers learned of the death of their colleague.

Some lives end far too soon, Reid said. Others, like Inouye's, leave friends and family who can celebrate a long life well-lived.

"Whenever we needed a noble man to lean on," he said, "we always turned to Sen. Daniel Inouye."

Obama said in his eulogy that if not for Inouye’s early example, he might not have run for public office.

The president told of watching the Watergate hearings with his mother as a child and of being fascinated by "this man of Japanese descent ... full of dignity and grace."

As a young boy with a white mother and black father, beginning to realize how difficult it could be to fit in the world, Obama said, he took special note of Inouye.

Inouye clearly wasn't what "central casting" would have sent over to play the role of U.S. senator, he said. Yet he "commanded the respect of an entire nation," suggesting to Obama "what might be possible."

He "embodied the very best of 'aloha,'" Obama said, using the Hawaiian word that serves as a greeting, a goodbye and a blessing.

According to several speakers, it was the last word Inouye spoke before he died.

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