Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this evening as part of a tribute to Congressman John Dingell, who ealier this month became the longest serving Member of Congress in history. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to honor and to lead a Special Order, but to honor a great American, a great colleague and a great legislator whose service to this country and to this institution have been unmatched.
“It is appropriate that we rise tonight, appropriate particularly in light of the action that was taken and has been discussed today on the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Speaker, let me observe tangentially that the Gentleman from Texas said something about cramming down something, somebody's throat, the Voting Rights Act. I will remind my colleagues that it was passed 388 to 23 in this House and 98 to 0 in the Senate in 2006. Let me say we honor a man tonight who not only voted for the Voting Rights Act in 1965 but has voted for every re-authorization of that Act since that time.
“John Dingell came to Congress as a Member in 1955, winning a special election to fill the seat held by his father, John Dingell Sr., who himself served from 1933 to 1955. John Dingell and his father have represented the people of southeastern Michigan in this House for eight decades. What an extraordinary testimony to the faith of their voters in the constancy and loyalty of their representation.
“But very frankly, ladies and gentlemen, John's story in Congress actually began earlier than 1955. It really began in 1938. Which is to say, John Dingell, a year before I was born - and I’m one of the older members - he came here as a young House Page and we don't have Pages anymore, but nearly all of us remember seeing the Pages. Wide-eyed, sitting along the desk up front, sitting in the back, listening to speeches and watching Floor proceedings as they waited to carry messages. That was John Dingell three quarters of a century ago. The House of Representatives has been part of his life and him part of it for 75 years.
“On December 8, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, 15-year-old John Dingell was in this chamber as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at the rostrum and asked Congress to declare war against Japan, whose forces had just attacked Pearl Harbor. On that day to which he referred as a day of infamy.
“President Roosevelt spoke these timeless words and I quote, ‘with the unbounded determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.’ Throughout his time in this House, as a Page, as a son of a Congressman, as a Member himself, as a Committee Chairman and as a leader on issues of national importance, John Dingell has taught us, who have served with him, that America's triumph is only inevitable if we bring to bear the unbounded determination of which President Roosevelt spoke.
“In John Dingell's record, 57 years and 188 days as a Member of Congress, he has approached our greatest challenges with his own unrivaled determination. In every Congress for over a half a century, he continued his father's work of introducing legislation to expand health care coverage to all Americans, even in the many years when no one thought it possible to do so. But John Dingell stuck with it.
“He stuck with it and eventually had the opportunity to help shape and vote for the Affordable Care Act, which will extend to millions and millions of Americans access to affordable, quality health care. Millions of Americans owe John Dingell a debt of gratitude for his faithfulness in the advocacy of their best interest.
“John in fact was presiding over this House when it enacted Medicare in 1965. I told you he voted for the Voting Rights Act in 1965 but he presided over the adoption of Medicare and he helped write the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the 1990 Clean Air Act, among many historic pieces of legislation that he has authored, fought for and seen adopted.
“But John has done more in this Chamber than shepherd key legislation to passage. He's been an unwavering voice for the working families and small business owners, not just of southeastern Michigan but of all America. He's been a giant in promoting and preserving the great American automobile industry and the millions of jobs that rely on it. He's been a mentor and a friend to me and so many current and former Members of the House.
“My colleagues, John Dingell is a living link to an era when bipartisan compromise was a practiced reality, not just a slogan, not just something we say we're going to do, but something that was actually done. Members looked at John Dingell for his quick wit, his tenacious spirit, his extraordinary knowledge of legislation and of the history of this House and, yes, his warm heart.
“John loves this House and has always worked to preserve its collegiality and its good order. His unrivaled skill as a legislator is matched by his sense of decency, his integrity, and his devotion to country. And he has never lost that determination that was sparked as F.D.R. called our nation to arms and to service.
“John Dingell took up arms, he served in the United States Army from 1944 to 1946. He was a Second Lieutenant who prepared to take part in the first wave of a planned invasion of Japan. Fortunately, that invasion did not occur. But John Dingell, as always, was ready, willing, and able.
“John Dingell, my colleagues, as all of you know, has served America and its people for most of his life. But it is not the length of his service that we honor alone, it is even more importantly the quality of his service, the depth of his commitment, and the strength of his character that we honor tonight and John Dingell that we honor always. We're all better Representatives because of his example.
“I congratulate my friend on 75 years in the House of Representatives, 57 of them as a Member. John Dingell has, with diligence, faithfulness, extraordinary skill and judgment, courage and fidelity to God and country, lived up to President Roosevelt's words. He has served with unbounded determination and he has led a triumphant life.
“What an example for us all. A triumphant life, not because he won every fight but because he never gave up. He never was unfaithful to his oath of office. He was never unfaithful to his pledge to support working men and women and yes, everybody, in this country.
“My colleagues, John Dingell today is much like Tennyson's Ulysses, who said ‘We are not now that strength, which in olden days moved heaven and Earth. That which we are, we are. When equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and faith, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
“John Dingell - he pledged to his people when first elected, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. And he has indeed done all of those. He has kept the faith. And we expect him to be keeping the faith for years to come. For that is the spirit of my friend, my colleague, a great legislator, a great American, John Dingell of Michigan.”