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Pelosi Remarks at Roosevelt Institute Awards Dinner Honoring Barney Frank

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Roosevelt Institute Awards Dinner honoring former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Good evening everyone.  Felicia Wang, thank you for your leadership, bringing us all together.  I’m sorry that Anne Roosevelt cannot be with us this evening, but she does hold us together in the spirit of the Roosevelt family, with Ben Barnes who’s always here; Ben, wonderful to be with you and it’s wonderful to be with each and every one of you Members of the Massachusetts delegation.  They all happen to be Democrats; it’s just the way it is – and I’m pretty happy about that.

[Laughter and applause.]

“Five years ago, I had the privilege of receiving this award and so I always love it when whoever comes into my office sees this wonderful bust of Franklin Roosevelt right there, center stage.  I know that Barney will display his with great pride as well.  I received mine with Harry Reid – just two in those days – and now this evening, four magnificent recipients.  It’s a joy for me personally to hear Chris Dodd because I knew him when he was younger than I was, when he was a teenager, teaching us the dances when we were in college and he was in high school, to see him with his beautiful family, it’s just a joy to behold and to hear him speak about the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and the Dodd family, of course, is spectacular.  And to be here with James Hoffa, wow, what a great leader, what a great leader.

[Applause]

“I feel already that, that bust of Franklin Roosevelt is already enhanced because he will also be receiving one.  James Hoffa, thank you.  And Lisa Jackson, a whole-nother generation of leadership for our country; congratulations to you on receiving this award.

[Applause]

“I wasn’t here for the exact beginning of the evening and I apologize, but we did have a ceremony on the floor of the House honoring Frank Lautenberg and mourning his passing and I know that, that Chris acknowledged that earlier but we did lose a champion tonight in the tradition of the Roosevelt family.  And I keep referencing the family because both Eleanor and Franklin were both restoring peace to our nation and made a tremendous difference and I know, how would I know, but I know that in keeping with their ideals, that they would believe that Barney Frank was a worthy recipient of this award.  And I mention Eleanor because it was said of her that despite her great wealth and being born into an aristocratic, what we would call then an aristocratic family in our country, she cared so much about the poor and needy in our country, and they said that she did so because she had a ‘burdensome conscience.’  It’s safe to say that Barney Frank’s conscience drove him to stand up, stand up against injustice and inequality for all Americans.  It made him angry, we saw in the film, and while he was saying it made him angry, he had on a plum white stripe shirt and he told me that he had on that shirt today.

[Laughter]

“He is, indeed, his conscience has been challenged in so very many ways.  On the issue of economic justice, fairness, opportunity for the middle class, for the consumers, and for those that aspire to the middle class.  Civil rights, as we saw, civil rights for the LGBT community and really, for every family.  He followed his conscience to advance the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the very spirit of the New Deal. 

“Now I’ve told you before, when I got my award, or when I presented it to Richard Trumka, or when I presented it to B. Rapoport, this is really a family affair with me.  I’m so pleased that my husband, Paul Pelosi, was able to be here.  He’s –

[Applause]

“He knows Barney because when he was courting me, he came to our home in Little Italy, in Baltimore, he would see these gigantic pictures of Franklin Roosevelt in our home – gigantic, I mean huge pictures.  And I told him one year that we used to use that picture when we were growing up to see how tall we had gotten.  We not only measured our height, but we liked to picture we’re measuring up to the ideals of Franklin Roosevelt who was just so important in our family.  We also had the same picture of Howard Bruenn, I mean, this is a house where these pictures were, so that gives you some idea of what we all have in common in terms of tradition and in terms of respect for this great President and Mrs. Roosevelt. 

“So, it’s safe for me to say that the challenge that – what she won over that burdensome conscience, it was about, again, I said: economic fairness, but also about the very spirit of the New Deal.  So it was about affordable housing for all Americans – nobody, nobody, has done more than Barney Frank.  When I came to the Congress, he was my mentor in that regard, as long as I kept my remarks very brief.  Very brief.  When I called him on the phone, I said: ‘Barney, oh I’m so excited.’  ‘No, I don’t want to hear about how excited you are.  What are you calling about?’

[Laughter]

“So our conversations became: ‘Barney.  Nancy.  Subject.  Timing.  Question.’  And that’s how we got along for twenty-five, twenty-six years.

[Laughter]

“It worked well for me.  It worked well with the President now.  He was the same with him.

[Laughter]

“He understood that self-respect and dignity that comes with having a place to call home, that dignity making a difference in the lives of every American.  He followed his conscience to end discrimination, secure equality for LGBT Americans, and all Americans, and Robert spoke so beautifully about that.  Whether it was immigration, or whatever.  A fully-inclusive hate crimes law, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the drive for marriage equality, ENDA, which we still have to get done – each shared the imprint of Barney Frank.  Barney, last night I saw Judy and Dennis Shepard, they were at the Ford Foundation event and when I went over to say ‘hello’ to them and I said, you know, ‘thank you, it’s so exciting to see you.’  The first words that Judy Shepard said were: ‘I’ll never forget Barney Frank.  I’ll never forget Barney Frank and how he spoke in the House Democratic Caucus, as we were bringing the fully inclusive hate crimes bill to the floor.’

[Applause]

“But it was the first, the very first thing she said and you remember how eloquent he was that day.  If Barney Frank, heed this word, now there were people who would say:  ‘Oh, we can get this bill through and amend it.  Just take out transgender,’ or just take out this or that.  That wasn’t what Barney Frank was about.  He didn’t come this far, work this hard and long, for us to do anything less but end discrimination.  In that Caucus, he said to us that day:  ‘I’m the Chairman – today, I am the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.  Important leaders in the business community beat a path to my door to tell me what they think.  But I wasn’t always the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.  I was once a teenage boy who had questions, as a 13 year old, and I identify with these boys and these young people now.  That’s why this is important.’  All of my colleagues here present know that, that was a transformative statement for the Caucus, for the issue.  It made all the difference in the world legislatively.  More importantly it made all the difference in the world for those young boys and girls.  Thank you Barney Frank, for that, thank you.

[Applause]

“And as Chair of the Financial Services Committee, he followed his conscience in pursuit of legislation that bears his name alongside that of a fellow awardee tonight, as we all know, Senator Dodd, the great Senator Dodd, teacher of the monkey, the swim, all of that 50 years ago that he’s done.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, all that, that implies.  The greatness of the authors, the protections for the people, so important.  The – it was historic, it was really historic to compliment the legacy of the Roosevelts and the New Deal: the strongest consumer financial protection in history, the end to predatory lending abuses, transparency and accountability on Wall Street; a tall order.  Thank you, Dodd-Frank, for your tremendous leadership.  It was a legacy that enforced the irresponsibility, the irresponsibility of some on Wall Street will not cause joblessness for many on Main Street.  The burdensome conscience of Barney Frank meant progress for our people and a great history for our country.  He was and remains a phenomenon, a force of nature, a leader of incredible intellect, and of humor and did you know: an arbiter of fashion. 

[Laughter]

“I’ll tell you my personal story because I can’t resist.

[Laughter]

“So, I became the Ranking Member on Foreign Ops and I was going to the floor to manage my first bill in the Congress of the United States.  I was so excited, had everything prepared.  We were fighting the gag rule, we were fighting all different things in the foreign ops bill, those of you who remember this saying.  I go to the floor, I think I’m all prepared, Barney comes up to me and says: ‘That suit you’re wearing, give it away.’

[Laughter]

“‘Give it away.’

[Laughter]

“Barney Frank, give it away.  So as I was finished, I came back and looked for approval from Dave Obey, who was my Chairman, and Dave Obey said: ‘It was ok, but you could have been more diplomatic.’  I said: ‘This is really my day – I’m getting fashion advice from Barney Frank and diplomacy advice from Dave Obey.’

[Laughter]

“I guess I didn’t do too well.  But anyway, I know for all our colleagues that are here and the special pride that the Massachusetts delegation takes that, that they are all honored to have called him colleague and will continue to do so forever, but it is also a privilege to have him as a friend.  It was a very joyful occasion for me to dance at his wedding with Jimmy, and with Barney.  Jimmy, thank you for making him so happy.  Thank you, Jimmy.

[Applause]

“And today, I was happy that day, and very honored today, for having the privilege of honoring this great man.  Ladies and gentlemen for his knowledge and wit, for his courage and passion, for his service and achievements, it is my honor to present…

[Applause]

“It is my honor to present the Roosevelt Institute Distinguished Public Service Award to the great Barney Frank.”