Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader John Boehner, and other Members of Congress hosted a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony today in the Capitol in honor of former Senator Edward Brooke. In 1966, Senator Brooke became the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate, where he represented Massachusetts for two terms. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Good morning. What an honor it is to be here with the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, with the Brooke family and the children, with Vicki Kennedy and members of the Kennedy clan. It is an honor to be here with Senator Edward Brooke, to be here with the President of the United States as the Congress of the United States bestows its highest honor to a great leader, Senator Edward Brooke.
“I heard bipartisanship applauded when President Obama mentioned it. Senator Brooke, in honor of your birthday, last night Leader Boehner and I were there to cheer on our bipartisan football team, Democrats and Republicans, working as a team and leading them with that great teamwork to victory over a formidable foe. We had a Democratic-Republican team win the day. In that spirit of bipartisanship, in your honor.
“In 1967, that was the year that Senator Brooke came to the United States Senate. At that time, Time Magazine wrote of him: ‘He signals a new style and a new hope.' As the first African American popularly elected to the United States Senate, Senator Brooke ignited more than four decades of progress toward the American ideal of equality.
“Today we also note, as others have mentioned, that Senator Brooke's partner in progress was often his senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy. It was Ted Kennedy who first escorted Ed Brooke into the Senate Chamber in 1967. He worked with Senator Brooke in a bipartisan way for their great state. And it was Senator Kennedy's legislation, as has been acknowledged, that gave us the opportunity, joining with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House, that gave us the opportunity to honor Senator Brooke with the Congressional Gold Medal today.
“Senator Brooke came to the Senate after a distinguished career, as we all know, as a public servant, as an Army veteran, a civic leader in Boston, as the Attorney General of Massachusetts - the first African American elected Attorney General in our country.
“And yet as Senator Brooke recounts himself, there were many who scolded his ambition and encouraged patience. He says he was often asked: 'Ed, why the rush? Why are you in such a hurry?' Edward Brooke was a man in a hurry for equality. He was a man in a hurry for progress - on civil rights, on ending the Vietnam War, and on issues of national fairness such as increasing the minimum wage, ending discrimination in housing, and ensuring affordable housing.
“Today, the Brooke Amendment, an amendment initiated by a Republican Senator, means something to all of the people in our country because it is synonymous, it signals a guarantee that public housing is affordable to all people. It is a cornerstone of current federal housing policy, benefitting millions of Americans. We salute you for that, Senator Brooke.
“Today we honor Senator Brooke for his impatience. We thank him for it. We acknowledge that it is through impatience of Senator Brooke that we have moved forward as a country. It is with the impatience that we come ever-closer to the ideals of our nation's founding to form a more perfect union. Today as we convey the Congressional Gold Medal to you, on behalf of the entire Congress, we all extend our congratulations and our thanks to Senator Edward Brooke. Thank you, Senator.”