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Pelosi's Tribute to Chairwoman Millender-McDonald

Washington, D.C.--Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor tonight in memory of Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, who passed away this weekend.  Below are her remarks:

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I thank our dear friend, Congresswoman Watson, for bringing us together around this very sad and necessary resolution today. 

On behalf of all Members of Congress, I rise to pay tribute to Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, who passed away Saturday night.  I offer the deepest sympathies to her family who loved her so dearly -- her husband, James McDonald Jr., her five children, and her five grandchildren.

As the first African American woman to chair a committee in Congress, Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country.  She was a strong defender of the right of every eligible voter to have full access to the polls, and a tireless proponent of fair elections that ensured that every vote would be counted.

As Chair of the House Administration Committee, Chairwoman Millender-McDonald's deep commitment to diversity was manifested in her actions on hiring and contracting within the House of Representatives.  She enjoyed her role as the 'Mayor' of Capitol Hill, and was known for asking tourists in elevators 'are you finding everything okay?' and listening closely to their response. 

After her family, the people of California's 37th District were always first and foremost in Chairwoman Millender-McDonald's mind and her work here in Congress.  She saw it as a priority to make sure they had every opportunity.  She worked to strengthen the economy and create jobs there, and she saw it as a priority to secure the two ports adjacent to her district. 

Chairwoman Millender-McDonald was an advocate for justice around the world.  She spoke out forcefully against the genocide in Darfur, and was a powerful advocate for the rights of women everywhere.  As a former co-chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, she worked for gender equity here at home and throughout the world. 

The loss of Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald is a personal one for many of us here.  She was always optimistic and determined to make a difference.  The dignity with which she faced her illness was an indication of the determination with which she always served the people of our country.  We have all lost an effective leader and spokeswoman, and many of us have lost a dear friend.

When we look around this chamber, it's almost impossible to imagine it without Juanita here fighting the fight, and doing so looking magnificent.  The dignity, the grace, the beauty, the thoughtfulness that she brought to the tasks at hand were a model for others.  Young people would come to the Capitol and observe her in action and learn from her. 

We also learned from her how to have dignity at the end of life.  Many of us knew that she had had bouts of illness, but we really didn't know how serious it was and how close she was to what she said, her daughter told me, 'going home.'  Valerie said to me last night, she said, 'I want to make all these arrangements so that I can go home.' 

I hope it is a comfort to Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald's family and friends that so many people mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.  Many of us will travel to California to say goodbye to Juanita, to speak to her in that familiar way. 

It's been an honor to call her colleague - I know we all agree on that.  And for many of us it was a privilege also to call her -- friend.

Goodbye, my friend.