PELOSI — 'America Is More True to Its Founding Ideals Because Tom Lantos Chose to Call This Land His Home'
Washington, D.C. — Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor tonight in memory of Chairman Tom Lantos, who passed away early yesterday. Below are her remarks:
“Madam Speaker and my colleagues, yesterday morning when I received the very sad news of Tom Lantos' passing, that call was followed very quickly by a call from the President of the United States. He expressed to me as Speaker, but through me to each and every one of you, his sadness over Tom's passing and his words of praise for Tom Lantos' leadership. I told the President how appreciative I know we would all be of his kind words and that I would convey them to this House of Representatives.
“Madam Speaker, not only the House, but the Congress, indeed the entire country has lost one of its most talented leaders and the world lost one of its greatest champions of human rights with the passing of Chairman Tom Lantos. He was a statesman; he was a gentleman; and he will be deeply missed.
“As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, Tom Lantos devoted his public life to shining a bright light on dark corners of oppression.
“From his earliest days in House, when he founded, with Congressman Jon Porter, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, to his final days as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he used his powerful voice to stir the consciousness of world leaders and the public alike.
“Madam Speaker, I told some of our colleagues earlier that Tom and his wife Annette were a team in every way, whether it was establishing the Human Rights Caucus or working together for the benefit of his district, or our country. All who knew Tom knew how devoted he was to his family and to Annette, whom he adored. They worked as a team, bringing great intellect, experience, and compassion to their outstanding work in public service.
“Annette was alone after the Holocaust as well, and when they married, they had two daughters, Annette and Katrina, who produced this wonderful family of 17 grandchildren. And these two daughters said to their parents, 'You lost your families in the Holocaust, we are bringing to you a new family.' How proud Tom was of all of that.
“Having lived through the worst evil known to mankind, Tom Lantos translated his experience into a lifetime commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism, for Holocaust education, and a commitment to the state of Israel.
“Tom Lantos was not only a champion of human rights, he was an expert in foreign affairs and diplomacy and the security of our country. He had a rare combination of extraordinary knowledge, great wisdom, extraordinary skill and judgment, and an extraordinary moral compass.
“He rallied us to the cause of defending basic human freedom within the borders of the most powerful countries and in the most remote places in the world.
“He stood tall in the sometimes lonely fights for the people of China and Tibet. I was proud that we had the opportunity together, and with the President of the United States in a bipartisan way, to honor the people of Tibet by presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama last year along with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, who was a co-author of that legislation.
“He fought to end the genocide in Darfur and recently helped enact legislation to crack down on the Sudanese regime. And he worked to strengthen sanctions against the military junta in Burma and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“In just his first year as Chairman for the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Lantos also helped enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations to better protect the American people.
“Throughout his three decades in the House, Tom Lantos always used his experience and intellect to empower the powerless and give voice to the voiceless throughout the world.
“Here at home, Tom Lantos championed working families. Working families had no better friend in the Congress of the United States than Tom Lantos. And he was a strong leader in protecting our planet for the future.
“He also authored key provisions of our landmark energy bill, which the President signed into law. Thanks to Tom Lantos, that law includes provisions that will help the United States assume a greater leadership role in the world to fight climate change.
“It was one of my privileges of my service in Congress to work with Tom on behalf of the people of San Francisco. He will long be remembered for his efforts to expand and protect the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, which is one of the nation's most visited national parks and a treasure for Bay Area residents.
“Congressman Lantos was also well known for his strong support of infrastructure improvements, including the expansion of BART service and other mass transit solutions. Though his leadership was felt around the world, he always remained a fierce advocate for his constituents in 12th Congressional District.
“Tom Lantos called himself 'an American by choice.' America is a stronger nation, a more caring nation, and a nation more true to its founding ideals because Tom Lantos chose to call this land his home.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Annette, dear Annette, their daughters Katrina and Annette, and their 17 grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. I hope it is a comfort to them that so many people throughout the entire world mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.
“Goodbye, Tom, my friend. It was an honor to call you colleague; it was a privilege to serve with you and a joy to be your friend.”