His best teacher, ever!

I’ve carried Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye’s Boston Globe obituary with me since he died at age 88 in 2012. The obituary is by Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press.

Here’s the opening:

WASHINGTON — Recovering from war wounds that left him with one arm, Danny Inouye wanted a cigarette and needed a light.

The nurse at the Army hospital in Michigan threw a pack of matches on his chest. He wanted to curse her. Instead, she taught him how to light it one-handed.

‘‘Then she said: ‘I’m not going to be around here for the rest of your life. You’ll have to learn how to light your own matches, cut your own meat, dress yourself, and do everything else. So from now on you’re going to be learning,’ ’’ he recalled decades later.

From that moment on, it seemed as if nothing would stop a determined Daniel K. Inouye, who died Monday after a uniquely American life defined by heroism in war and decades of service in the Senate and a lifelong love of Hawaii symbolized by his last utterance: ‘‘Aloha.’’


I can only imagine the many, many, many times Inouye must have told that story to his family because, after he died, they put it at the top of his obituary.

So what does this tale tell us? That Army nurse was undoubtedly his best teacher, ever. She made a huge difference in his life. Surprisingly so. Her method was filled with toughness, wisdom, commonsense and obvious love for this young man who had sacrificed so much in service to his country.

She knew her WHY, her purpose — why she was there. It was ultimately to help war-wounded soldiers keep or regain as much of their lives as they could. As I picture her, I see a person who was tough, smart, wise, and ultimately, very loving because she focused on what Inouye needed, even before he knew what he needed. She was the ultimate great teacher and he, her student, knew it and obviously, cherished her throughout his life.

That’s the amazing business we’re in. Education: where toughness, wisdom, common sense, and love can thrive and make huge differences in the lives of students.

Well, I could go on and on, but I’ll let you take it from here. Don’t you agree that this is a beautiful opening for an obituary?

Copyright © 2023 by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD. MA.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA, is a reformer, thought leader, lawyer, and author. Check out her book, Special Education 2.0 and her medicine bottle art!