Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning in strong support of a resolution recognizing Congressman John Dingell as the longest serving Member in the House. Congressman Dingell, who was first elected to Congress in 1955, will officially become the longest-serving Member today, beginning his 19,420th day serving in the House of Representatives.
“It's so wonderful to see the two gentlemen from Michigan -- the two newest Members on the Democratic side from Michigan. One presiding, Mr. Schauer, and one controlling the time, Mr. Peters, as we pay tribute to the Dean of the House --and certainly the Dean of the Michigan delegation, Mr. Dingell.
“It's pretty exciting -- isn't it, Mr. Chairman? -- to see these two new young Members to come here to reinvigorate the Congress. You've seen that happen, time and time again.
“My colleagues, as you know, today the American flag is flying over the Capitol in honor of the leadership and service of our colleague John Dingell for becoming the longest-serving Member of the House of Representatives.
“As we recognize John today, we thank and congratulate his family for sharing him with us: his wife, the lovely Deborah, as he refers to her, and his children, John the third, Christopher, Jeannie and Jennifer.
“Last night, hundreds of people gathered under the Capitol dome as we had a reception on the eve of this historic event at the site of the original House of Representatives to pay tribute to John Dingell. It was an amazing group to see: Democrats and Republicans, new Members -- just newly sworn in -- and those who have been here for decades. We were honored to be joined by President Clinton, who on more than one occasion has honored John Dingell for his service. I think most recently before was for the 50-year anniversary of your service in Congress, where many of us came together at that time. We were joined also by Speaker Foley and the former Minority Leader Bob Michel. Again, a sign of bipartisanship. We all came together to pay tribute to the 19,420 days John Dingell served alongside us.
“Today we have an opportunity again on the actual day that he breaks the record -- yesterday was a tie and today will break the record. It is also personal privilege for me to me to speak about John, as my father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., served with John's father in Congress before John came here.
“Every chapter of John Dingell's life has been lived in service to our country. John first came to these halls -- as I mentioned last night as we all know -- as a congressional page.
“I see that all the pages are gathered in the back of the room to hear the story of one of their colleagues, a former page, who has reached the heights in the Congress of the United States. Thank you pages.
“He was a page in 1941 when he was standing on the floor when President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.
“That war called John to serve again -- not now as a page but a few years older and old enough to serve in the military -- where he rose to the rank of second lieutenant in the Army.
“It also began a public life dedicated to making America strong both at home and abroad.
“Just barely old enough to be a member of the Greatest Generation, John Dingell applied his brilliant mind, his great judgment, and his broad vision to making the future better for generations to come.
“John always made clear that a strong America had to be a healthy America. Continuing a tradition his father had begun, in every Congress John has introduced a bill for universal, national health insurance.
“Because of his tireless work in securing health care for the elderly, John presided in the House in 1965 -- her presided where you stand now, Congressman Schauer -- when Medicare was passed into law. He gaveled it down. And that gavel he used that day still sits on his desk.
“To work alongside John Dingell is to be inspired by the history of our institution and humbled by the seriousness of our work.
“John, as I said yesterday, tied the record. Today he broke the record. And every day that he serves from now on, he will continue to set a new record. Certainly a new record of time in Congress, but that's the least of it. A record of leadership, combined with experience and longevity that makes him such a powerhouse.
“To John, we love and respect you - and by any measure - your leadership and your success have been unsurpassed.
“Congratulations on this wonderful honor. We look forward to working with you for many weeks, years -- every day to break the record, a new record, but as that piles up into years, our country will be well-served, continued to be well-served by your tremendous leadership.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”