Akaka was born and raised in Honolulu. He attended
high school at the Kamehameha School for Boys and graduated
in 1942. He served in World War II from 1945-1947, and earned
his Bachelor of Education (1952) and Master of Education (1966)
from University of Hawai‘i. A school prinicipal, he elected
to the House of Representatives in 1976, served there 14 years,
and was appointed to the Senate in 1990 after the death of
Sen. Spark Matsunaga. He won reelection in 1994 and 2000.
Akaka is one of the Senate’s more liberal members. He wants
students to be “financially literate,” to have the
tools to make sound financial decisions. He also believes that
children should learn foreign languages at an early age, and
is pushing for legislation that would require it
On issues such as abortion, Akaka is pro-choice. He’s an
advocate of renewable energy and reducing American dependence
on foreign oil. He voted against drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and he has introduced the Hydrogen
Akaka voted “yes” to establishing a guest worker
program and to allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social
Security. In addition, he thinks that there shouldn’t be
limitations on welfare for immigrants. Akaka supports the Jones
Act and the Patriot Act, but is against the war in Iraq.
Akaka is best known the bill that is named after him, (S.147),
which was written to give Native Hawaiians recognition similar
to that other Native American groups received. It would have
established an Office of Native Hawaiian Relations and a Native
Hawaiian Interagency Coordinating Group. The bill failed, earlier
this year, to muster the 60 votes need to bring it to a debate
before the whole Senate.
In April of this year, Time Magazine named Akaka was one of the
five worst senators in the nation. Many in Hawai‘i disagree,
and describe Akaka as a kupuna--a source of wisdom: affectionate,
earnest, lovable, and a master of the minor resolution. Still,
he has been in office for 16 years, and the most recognizable
thing he has done was effect an apology from the U.S. for invading
Hawai‘i in 1893.
Akaka himself, at a recent forum with Rep. Case, reminded Hawai‘i
voters that it isn’t always easy to get people to admit
to a wrong, but it is the right thing to do, and he has spent
his years in the Senate educating the nation’s political
leaders about Hawai‘i and Hawaiians.