Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Leads House Special Order Honoring Rep. Mark Takai
Washington, DC—This morning, following a special ceremony held for Rep. Mark Takai yesterday in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) led 18 other Members of Congress in a Special Order of speeches on the House floor honoring the late U.S. Congressman Mark Takai. For nearly an hour and a half, Members shared their memories and experiences with Rep. Mark Takai, honoring his more than two decades of service to Hawaiʻi and our nation. Many Members also wore aloha attire and leis to honor Rep. Takai’s congressional office tradition of ‘Aloha Friday’ and efforts to get aloha shirts approved for wear on the House floor. Congressman Takai’s wife Sami, his children Matthew and Kaila, his parents Erik and Naomi, and siblings Ross, Nikki, and Nadine, as well as other family members, attended the Special Order in the House Gallery, along with members of Rep. Mark Takai’s staff.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also introduced a House Resolution (H.Res.869) honoring the late congressman and his family, and recognizing his service to Hawaiʻi and our nation, both in Congress and in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard. Full text of the resolution is available here.
Honoring Rep. Takai on the House floor today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:
“In Hawaiʻi, the word aloha holds a very special place in our hearts. It’s a word we use every single day to say hello and goodbye, but in saying that word, we’re actually conveying a much deeper meaning.
“In the deepest and truest sense of the word, aloha means I come to you with an open heart and offer you my deepest respect, love, and care.
“It’s a word that describes a way of life—living aloha brings people together, regardless of their unique backgrounds, or things like age, race, religion, or social class.
“This open heart—this spirit of aloha—is what I think of when I think of my colleague, my fellow soldier, and my friend, Mark Takai, because he carried this aloha spirit with him wherever he went. He shared it with everyone that he came into contact with.
“During a celebration of Mark’s life held in his home town of Pearl City on Oʻahu just a few weeks ago, the community he served for 20 years as a state legislator, I heard from one of Mark’s high school teachers named Mike, who shared her amazement that not only was Mark a great student, not only was he an All-American swimmer, but he would spend his free time doing things like organizing voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote parades in his neighborhood, encouraging his community to make sure their voice was heard.
“As a student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Mark was a leader among his peers, one of whom is here today, our colleague Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. He served as President of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, was a champion on the varsity team for four years, and was Editor-in-Chief of the campus newspaper, Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. I recently had an intern in my district office who is a part of ASUH, and he told me about how the University of Hawaiʻi student government members today tell stories about the legends of Mark Takai’s courage and leadership as student president, taking on difficult issues like sexual harassment and assault, resulting in his being sued by the University of Hawaiʻi Professors Union. But no matter the challenge or the difficulty of the obstacle, the legends are true—Mark Takai never backed down.
“At age 27, he was elected to the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives, representing his hometown of Pearl City and neighboring Aiea from 1994 to 2014. In 2002, I was elected to the State House, where I first got to know him, learning of his commitment and passion for the University of Hawaiʻi, he and Sami’s love for all things Disney, showing me the memorabilia they brought home from the Disney Parks they visited around the world, and sharing copies of the cookbook he distributed throughout his Pearl City district, always making time, always ready with a helpful tip and a helping hand.
“In 2014, after a hard-fought campaign, Mark came here and joined us in Congress, representing the First Congressional District of Hawaiʻi. While here, he served on the Armed Services Committee, as well as the Small Business Committee, working hard always, putting first and foremost his constituents. Even after he was diagnosed and going through treatment, he was always there attending his committee hearings, doing things that no one really expected he would do. I was amazed that during our annual NDAA marathon mark-up session that often lasts over 16 straight hours, Mark was there in the wee hours of the morning, passing out Hawaiʻi-made chocolate macadamia nuts to our colleagues.
“For 17 years, while simultaneously fulfilling his responsibilities as an elected official, Mark also served as a citizen soldier in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, where he earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and served as President of the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard Association.
“Because Mark had a Master’s degree in Public Health, he came into the National Guard as a direct commissioned officer. What this meant in practical terms was that he didn’t have to go through Basic Combat Training or Officer Candidate School (OCS). When I came back to Hawaiʻi from my Basic Training in South Carolina, I was assigned to a Medical Command, the same unit as Mark. He was a First Lieutenant and I was a Private First Class. As I was rendering him a salute, he would joke around asking me to teach him how to render a proper salute and how to march in a formation because he never got to learn those through Basic Training.
“Mark was incredibly proud to wear the uniform. He was deeply committed to the National Guard, extremely active with the National Guard Association both in Hawaiʻi and here in Washington, always looking to find ways to support the institution and its service to our soldiers and airmen in Hawaiʻi and across the country.
“I’ve heard from so many of Mark’s soldiers and peers in the Hawaiʻi Guard who express disbelief that he is actually gone, and how much they truly valued the time that they spent with him and served with him.
“Mark’s service to Hawaiʻi and our nation spans nearly a quarter century. His legacy of aloha and his commitment to service touched the lives of so many people along the way. All of the stories and remembrances we will hear today capture the essence of Mark—his heart for service, his spirit of aloha, his love for God, love for his family, caring and sharing aloha with everyone.
“To our colleagues here today to share their memories of Mark—thank you for opening your hearts as we honor, remember, and say aloha to our dear friend.
“To Mark’s staff—thank you for being strong, for serving Mark and our state of Hawaiʻi, and continuing to serve the people of Hawaiʻi through this difficult time.
“Finally, I’d like to recognize Mark’s family— who just arrived here in the Gallery. I’d like to recognize Mark’s wife Sami, his children Matthew and Kaila, his parents Erik and Naomi, and his siblings Nadine, Nikki, and Ross, all of whom have been incredibly generous in sharing their time and opening their family to all of us, the people across the state of Hawaiʻi, and yesterday during the beautiful and historic service that was held in Mark’s honor. I want you to know that you were always with him wherever he went. He was always speaking about you, proudly. You were the light of his life.
“Mahalo Mark, for the lasting impact that you had on all of us, for sharing your aloha with us, and for dedicating your life in the service of others.”