Senator Spark M. Matsunaga (2007)

Senator Spark M. Matsunaga‘s greatest legacy is The United States Institute of Peace, an American non-partisan, independent, federal institution that provides analysis of and is involved in conflicts around the world. The United States Institute of Peace Act, passed in 1984, calls for the Institute to “serve the people and the Government through the widest possible range of education and training, basic and applied research opportunities, and peace information services on the means to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and peoples of the world without recourse to violence”.[1]

The Institute carries out this mission by operating programs in conflict zones, conducting research and analysis, operating a training academy and public education center, providing grants for research and fieldwork, convening conferences and workshops,[2] and building the academic and policy fields of international conflict management and peacebuilding.[3] On many of its projects, the Institute works in partnership with nongovernmental organizations, higher and secondary educational institutions, international organizations, local organizations, and U.S. government agencies, including the State Department and the Department of Defense.[4]

Also for 22 years Matsunaga presented legislation in Congress for the creation of the position of United States Poet Laureate. In 1985, legislation was finally passed authorizing the position of Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.[4]

In 1986, the University of Hawai’i Institute for Peace was established. From the beginning, the Institute was an academic community designed to develop and share knowledge about the root causes of violence, conditions of peace, and uses of nonviolent means for resolving conflicts.

Senator Spark M. Matsunaga

After the passing of Hawai’i Senator Spark M. Matsunaga in 1990, it was proposed that the Institute be renamed in his honor. Senator Matsunaga worked tirelessly over his career to establish the United States Institute for Peace, and provided inspirational guidance in the development of the University of Hawai’i Institute for Peace curriculum and research priorities. The new name acknowledges Senator Matsunaga’s vision to institutionalize humanity’s concern for world peace, starting at a local level.

Matsunaga grew up on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i and graduated from Kauai High School .A bronze statue honoring him is in the Spark M. Matsunaga International Children’s Garden For Peace at the Storybook Theatre of Hawaii in his hometown of Hanapepe, Kauai.[5 He attended the University of Hawai’i and received his bachelor’s degree in 1941. He became a United States Army Reservist in 1941, volunteered for active duty in July that year, and was twice wounded in battle while serving with the renowned 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion. After his release from the Army as a Captain, Matsunaga entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1951. He served as a public prosecutor and private-practice attorney, and was a member of both the Hawaiian statehood delegation to Congress and the territorial legislature. After Daniel Inouye was elected to the Senate, Matsunaga succeeded him as the state’s sole member of the House of Representatives. After Hawaii was split into districts for the 1970 elections, Matsunaga was elected for Hawaii’s 1st congressional district, comprising Honolulu’s inner ring, and held that seat until 1976. That year, with Hiram Fong retiring, Matsunaga defeated Hawaii’s other House representative, Patsy Mink for the Democratic Party nomination for Senator. Matsunaga went on to serve in the United States Senate from 1977 until his death in 1990.

Matsunaga went to Toronto General Hospital for treatment and died in Toronto on April 15, 1990 at the age of 73 from prostate cancer.[1

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