Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a speech on the House Floor today in support of a bipartisan proposal to name a federal building at the foot of Capitol Hill in memory of former Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill, Jr, the longest continuously serving House Speaker in U.S. history. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“I thank the gentleman for yielding. And I thank Speaker Boehner for his leadership and cooperation in bringing this legislation to the floor. Thank you Mr. Speaker.
“Tip O’Neill said the Speaker of [his] House was Millie, his wife, and I have the privilege of serving in the office that Tip O’Neill had when he was Speaker of the House and having in my possession the gavel that was given to Speaker O’Neill when he became the Leader, not yet the Speaker, and it’s a Waterford, Mr. Speaker, so you could only use it one time. And perhaps you would use it today, you made this possible, all of us who admire and love Tip O’Neill are grateful to you for that. So I thank you Mr. Speaker for your very fine words.
“Two weeks ago, Member of Congress joined members of the O’Neill family, and many others, to plant a tree in honor of the life of Speaker Tip O’Neill. Today, we honor Tip again by passing a resolution to inscribe his name on a federal building, a lasting tribute to the service and leadership, to the state of Massachusetts, to the House of Representatives, to his leadership for all Americans.
“I thank, again, Speaker Boehner for leading this bipartisan effort to remember the great Tip O’Neill. Together on the floor of the House, where Tip once wielded the Speaker’s gavel with courage, and dignity, and grace. And I thank you, Mr. Capuano, for joining on the committee to bring this to the floor of the House and you serve in the same district that Tip O’Neill did. What an honor. I serve in the office that he had. What an honor.
“It is fitting that the “[Thomas] P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Building” will stand alongside the office building named for Tip’s dear friend, colleague, and partner in public service: former President and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford. As Speaker Boehner indicated, they’ll be neighbors. Indeed, reflecting on their long partnership, President Ford once said: ‘Tip O’Neill [is] an outstanding political leader and patriot who always carried the torch for the Congress and the American people.’ Carrying the torch. This statement captured the essence of Tip’s success: his extraordinary leadership; his unflinching patriotism; his belief in the common good; his devotion to the unending fight to ‘form a more perfect union.’
“Yes, Mr. President Ford, Tip carried the torch for all who believed that the purpose of politics is to improve the lives of others. Tip carried the torch for the underdog, for the person on the street, for the family struggling to pay the bills. He carried the torch of opportunity and equality into every budget negotiation, every legislative battle, every bipartisan agreement. Tip was the personal manifestation of the American Dream, and he carried the torch for everyone else who strived to achieve it.
“For Tip, standing on principle was not about political gain; it was about fighting for the voiceless and for the aspirations of the middle class. For Tip, the effort to reform and save Social Security was not about figures on a page; it was about the seniors fighting to make ends meet. And that’s why we’re so proud of what he did with President Reagan to prolong the life of Social Security. For Tip, floor debates were not about abstract numbers; they were about people and the consequences of a policy to their lives.
“Those were the values that enabled Tip O’Neill to leave his giant footprint, giant footprint, on the course of American history. This is the spirit that made him a legend, that allowed him to help the middle class thrive, that ensured his actions would strengthen the character of our country, in his time and for future generations. By his leadership and his patriotism, Tip O’Neill was a proud champion of his district, his state, and our nation. His gavel in hand, he was a giant of the Congress. With his record of progress, he was a bona fide American hero. By adding his name to a federal building, in sight of the Capitol he loved, we all carry the torch of the legacy of Speaker Tip O’Neill.
“I hope that we have, not the close vote that would be fun, maybe, at the time, but a unanimous vote that shows that we share Tip’s values and take pride in his leadership as he stands with, as a neighbor, to President Gerald Ford.
“Thank you Mr. Speaker, I yield back to the gentleman.”