Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks tonight at the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Institute Gala, where she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid presented B. Rapoport of Waco, Texas with the FDR Distinguished Public Service Award. Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared:
“Thank you, Anne [Roosevelt] for that kind introduction and for ensuring that the Roosevelt legacy continues to thrive.
“I would also like to acknowledge Andy Rich and Dick French for their work to inform and inspire new generations through Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
“I come here tonight as a proud recipients of last year's FDR Distinguished Public Service Award. It was a particular honor to receive this award with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“The bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is proudly displayed in the Speaker's office in the Capitol for all to see. It represents just one of many connections between my family and the Roosevelt family.
“My father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr served in Congress from 1939 to 1947 where he was a stalwart supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal agenda. But it wasn't just my father's voting record that spoke volumes about his respect for the President. He named one of my older brothers Franklin Roosevelt D'Alesandro.
“That love and respect for President Roosevelt did not make my family unique. That is because Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to the aspirations of all of the American people.
“Before he died, President Roosevelt said that if we were a nation at war when he died, he was not to be given a state funeral because of the cost, pomp, circumstance, and the distraction from the fact that our young people were in harm's way. So after his death, President Roosevelt was taken by train from Warm Springs, Georgia to Washington, D.C., where he lay in state at the White House, and then they took him to Hyde Park in New York, where he was buried.
“Along the way, thousands of people lined the tracks: paying their respects and weeping at their loss. When the train was in Union Station here in Washington, a reporter went up to a mourner and said, ‘Why are you here? Did you know Franklin Roosevelt?' The mourner replied: ‘No, I didn't know President Roosevelt, but he knew me.'
“Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the aspirations of the son of Jewish Russian immigrants, raised in the Great Depression in Waco, Texas: B. Rapoport. Those aspirations sustained B. through difficult times, and they encouraged B. to make lots of money so he could give it away.
“Today, B. lives in a modest ranch home in Waco and drives an old car. And yet, over the last 20 years, he's provided than $40 million in grants to organizations large and small to improve our nation. B. has said, that ‘When too few have too much, and too many have too little, we do not have a sustainable society.'
“Few have done more to create a sustainable society and a just world than B. Rapoport. B's causes are diverse; he loves his alma mater, the University of Texas, he's a dedicated supporter of Israel, and he's an unabashed liberal. But wherever there is a difficult challenge and an innovative solution, B. Rapoport is there.
“Working alongside B. to address the great challenges of our time is his beloved wife of 67 years, Audre, whom we also honor tonight.
“B. Rapoport has said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the man he most admires. We are here tonight because Franklin Roosevelt would admire the contributions and the fundamental values of B. Rapoport.
“On behalf of Senate Majority Leader Reid's and myself, it is with great admiration, affection, and respect that I proudly present to B. Rapoport the FDR Distinguished Public Service Award.”