By Justin Sink - 12/20/12 04:35 PM EST
Vice President Biden praised the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) as "the quintessential American" at an arrival ceremony for the senator's body at the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.
"Each and every American who has been granted the honor accorded to Danny today, they have been granted it because they possessed a particular quality that we view as uniquely American," Biden said.
The vice president went on to praise Inouye, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during World War II, saying he was consistently amazed by the senator's disposition, despite the harsh injuries he suffered in battle. He also noted the prejudice that Inouye, the nation's first Japanese-American senator, faced with determination.
"For all Danny had come through, from the sting of prejudice to his physical injuries, to the depravations he suffered, to the losses he had, he would have been forgiven by all who knew him if he had an edge to him. If there was a tinge of bitterness, a touch of cynicism in his heart. He would have been forgiven for that," Biden said. "But the amazing thing to me was, there was none."
Biden complemented Inouye as having "the most fulsome embrace of life with one arm than any man or woman could have with two."
But the vice president also praised the late senator's public service. Inouye represented Hawaii in the Senate for 50 of the 53 years since the state was admitted to the Union, and served as its first House member prior to that.
"Engagement in politics, being a member in Congress, can and should be the most honorable profession of all," Biden said. "Danny made me proud to be a senator."
Biden appeared at the ceremony with other top congressional leaders, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.).
Inouye died Monday at Walter Reed Medical Center after a short fight with respiratory illness. He was 88.