Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this afternoon at a ceremony to plant an American Red Oak on the Southwest Drive of the Capitol in honor of Congressman John Murtha. Congressman Murtha, who passed away in February of last year, would have celebrated his 79th birthday this week. Below are the Leader's remarks.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Brady, the Mayor of Capitol Hill for a while there, and thank you for bringing us all here together, to honor the memory of a great legend in the Congress, Jack Murtha.
“Father, thank you. This is one of your first ceremonies of this kind and it's appropriate that it should be for Jack Murtha. We don't usually see this many Members of Congress at one of these kinds of ceremonies, so that too is a tribute to Jack Murtha.
“Joyce, I hope that you know the eloquence of the statement being made by so many Members of Congress here, after votes have been concluded for the day.
“We're also joined by the architect Steven Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, and he would want me to tell you that this is an American Red Oak, that it was planned by Olmsted, the landscape architect of the Capitol grounds, to be placed right here. Now that was a while ago, but it is appropriate that we do it now between the Capitol and the Rayburn building, a path that Jack beat regularly.
“We all know Jack personally is a great person. To me, the loss of Jack is a loss of a great intellectual of the Congress, but also a person of great courage to the Congress. We all learned, we all learned from Jack Murtha all of the time. And we all honor Jack Murtha as a great patriot.
“The oath we take to preserve and defend was personified by him and by his pal, Bill Young, and it's such an honor that you're here Bill, thank you so much. They loved each other, really, and they had something in common, which was the concern that they had for our men and women in uniform, the national security of our country, and the strength to protect our people.
“Jack was a patriot in many respects: his care for our troops, his knowledge of the military. He also measured the strength of our country in the health and well-being of the American people and was a leader, a leader unsurpassed, unmatched in terms of putting resources, whether it was prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, you name it. Jack knew that we had to again not be weakened by those afflictions and of course with DOD being where the money was, that's where we went to get some for those various endeavors and Jack led the way.
“He was a patriot in terms of his previous position, which we all know he worked with Mr. Dicks on that committee as too, which we all know, which was the interior subcommittee now chaired, ranking by Mr. Moran. He wanted to protect the beautiful, natural patrimony of America. So the well-being of our people, their freedom of expression, protected by our troops, whether it was the beauty of America with emphasis on its conservation, Jack Murtha was always in the lead. He knew how to get the job done.
“I want to read you this one quote from Saint-Exupéry. He wrote Le Petit Prince. You may know that. He said of a tree: ‘The tree is more than a first seed, then a stem, then a living trunk…the tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.'
“Jack's grandmother said it a different way: ‘You're on this earth to make a difference.' And indeed, he made a difference in many of the ways that have already been discussed here.
“Semper Fi, the motto of the Marine Corps, was the motto in his life as you know. And he was faithful to the people of Johnstown and the rest of his district. He was faithful to this Congress of the United States.
“I know he would be so glad that Kip was here, because he talked about Tip O'Neil so much and the friendship that they had is a part of who Jack was. Thank you, Kip.
“And he was of course faithful to his beautiful Joyce, in every possible way. Joyce, your gift of sharing Jack without contrary is something we are all very grateful for. We are all - we've been here to plant trees, to name ships that are commissioned in his honor, to name buildings in his honor, the tributes go on because his contribution was endless, and so he was Semper Fi to Joyce.
“We all pray for God to bless America. God truly blessed America with the life and leadership of Jack Murtha. We will never forget him. And as this tree grows and flourishes with renewal and revival each year, this mighty oak it will become, appropriate because we have lost a mighty oak, but the foundation he laid, the legacy he left, will endure.
“Thank you, Mr. Brady, again, for bringing us together.”