You never forget your first real job. A good one, with a good mentor, can ingrain work habits that will be carried with you throughout your career.
My first job after college was on Capitol Hill working as a staff assistant for then-Rep. Daniel K. Akaka. At the end of the 112th Congress, now-Senator Akaka will retire at the age of 88, having left his mark on the U.S. Senate, in which he served for 22 years, after 14 years in the House. Akaka was the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate and is one of the few U.S. veterans to still be serving there.
Clearly the Senator has a legacy of service, and he instilled this importance in all who worked for him. For every constituent who came to the office, the staff rolled out the red carpet. The theory was that anyone who made the long journey from Hawaii to Washington deserved to be treated royally. The office described this and other service as the "aloha spirit."
Sharon Gang and then-Rep. Daniel K. Akaka in 1978.
I have never forgotten what I learned in the Akaka office – that excellent service to constituents or customers should always be my primary goal.
This lesson helps me today in my current duties at the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), as I strive to fulfill the AOC's mission of service and inspiration. This service and inspiration is on display everyday here in the Capitol Visitor Center – perhaps most symbolized by the model of the Statue of Freedom in Emancipation Hall where visitors can see and appreciate her beauty up close. She welcomes and inspires millions – and her placement in the Hall was helped in part by Senator Akaka.
In the Senator's farewell speech on the Senate floor on December 12, he thanked the workers of the Architect of the Capitol. Now, it is my turn to thank him for instilling the timeless values that I carry with me everyday.
Mahalo nui loa.