President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada stand as the casket is brought in at the funeral service for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, at the Washington National Cathedral, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye showed him “what might be possible in my own life.”

In a memorial service at the National Cathedral, Obama recalled a boyhood memory of watching Inouye, the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, during hearings in the 1970s on the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. He said the experience left him with a sense of what serving in government was all about. He said he had watched a man full of “grace and dignity.”

The president said Friday: “Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration.”

Other political leaders hailed Inouye for his career, spirit and selflessness.

Vice President Joe Biden said: “When people talked about loving Danny, they meant it.”

The Hawaii lawmaker was the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history. The wounded World War II veteran died Monday of respiratory complications at age 88.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.