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Pelosi: 'We Salute Speaker Hastert for His Leadership, Decency, and Long Record of Distinguished Service'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Members of Congress held a portrait unveiling in the Capitol this afternoon for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.  The longest-serving Republican Speaker in history, Dennis Hastert was the 51st Speaker of the House, serving from 1999 to 2007. Below are Speaker Pelosi's remarks:

“Today we come together to salute Speaker Hastert for his leadership, his decency, and his long record of distinguished service to the Congress. 

“As all of my colleagues who have spoken I'm sure will attest, looking around here you see the continuity of the Congress -- it's almost like a family.

“Of course we have the great Bob Michel -- the former Republican Leader in the Congress, and not only that, we have his successor from Peoria. He is now the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood.

“We see the dean of the Congress of the United States, John Dingell, the longest-serving person in the history of the House of Representatives.  And we see so many other great leaders who have served since Mr. Dingell came to Congress.

“So we all join to welcome the Michel family, to Jean Hastert and the entire Hastert family. Thank you for sharing Dennis Hastert with us for such a long time.

“Almost all of Speaker Hastert's life, as you heard and as you know, has been devoted to public service. He came into government service after 16 years as a teacher.  What better service to our country than that?  And, as you know, he served as a coach.  He put those skills to good use in this body.

“Ever proud of his roots, he brought the values of the heartland and Illinois's 14th District to the Speaker's office.

“As a Member of Congress, Dennis Hastert served with distinction.  As Speaker, he broke records: becoming the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history. On other occasions I have said: ‘Long may his record stand.'  But not today. [Laughter.]

“This is a testament to his leadership within the Republican Conference and also within the halls of Congress.

“Though we may not always agree on issues -- not always -- Speaker Hastert and I, and all of you gathered here today, agree on the importance of public service.  Distinguished public service has been the hallmark of Speaker Hastert's career, whether in the classroom or in the House of Representatives.  

“Today, we also recognize Speaker Hastert's wife, Jean, and his two children, Ethan and Joshua.  And his grandchild who is leading the applause in the front row here.

“As we all know, the Speaker has left Congress with a legacy of service and leadership.  He also gave a very special gift to America. The chaplain and Leader Michel have already referenced his leadership at the time of 9/11. 

“But I'd also like to thank him once again and publicly for a great gift.  Several years ago, thousands of Americans streamed into the Rotunda of the Capitol. They came to pay their final respects to Rosa Parks, the first woman to ever lie in honor in the Capitol of the United States. That would not have been possible without the leadership of Dennis Hastert, who made it so. Thank you, Dennis, for making that possible.

“In Congress, we all hold the title ‘honorable' by virtue of our office.  Dennis Hastert holds that title by virtue of his character. 

“Speaker Hastert's presence will now again grace these halls every day.  His portrait will stand in testament to his leadership and his integrity. 

“Thank you for your gift to America, Speaker Dennis Hastert.”