It would seem at first that Charles Durning and Daniel Inouye, who died this month within a week of each other, had little or nothing in common. Durning was born in Highland Falls, N.Y in 1923; Inouye was born in Honolulu in 1924. Durning, an outstanding character actor, entertained us for decades on stage, screen and television. Inouye, a U.S. Senator for 50 years, served with quiet authority and played key roles in both the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings.
One a statesman, the other an entertainer. And yet, if you read their extraordinary obituaries (Inouye’s is here, Durning’s is here) you will discover, as I did, that these two men shared something special–an indomitable American spirit.
Inouye, whose parents were born in Japan, overcame the rampant prejudice against Japanese-Americans that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to earn the Medal of Honor for his actions in Italy during World War II. Durning, whose father was an Irish immigrant, battled crippling poverty during the Great Depression before joining the Army and surviving both the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, both men pursued their dreams and achieved the kind of success that only comes from hard work and dedication. Daniel Inouye and Charles Durning. Two great Americans with nothing in common, except the thing that matters most.