For Immediate Release:
April 20, 2010
(202) 225 - 3130
(202) 225 - 3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) will be honored tonight by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington at their Annual Congressional Dinner, which was recently named in honor of the late Tim Russert. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We are gathered here in honor of the Boys and Girls Clubs, its extraordinary work—and in honor of the irreplaceable Tim Russert. Tim told a story in his book Big Russ and Me that I believe sheds some light on the kind of dedication we honor here tonight.
“When I was in high school, [Dad and I] were in the basement one day when Dad walked over to his desk, opened a drawer and took out a manila folder. He handed me a yellowed clipping from the October 27, 1944 edition of the Southport Weekly, an English newspaper. The headline read: US BOMBER CRASHES IN FLAMES IN AINSDALE, and the article described the crash of a B-24 Liberator at an Air Force Base in England. I read it quickly and zeroed in on the key lines: ‘When the plane crashed it broke up, and some of the airmen were thrown clear.’ Dad, I realized, had been one of them.“‘This is amazing,’ I said.“He looked at me and said, ‘It was a lot tougher for the guys who died.’ Then he took back the clipping and put it away without another word. The conversation was over.”
“Tim’s father, Timothy Russert Sr., belonged to a generation that made extraordinary sacrifices for our freedom, and for the safety of those waiting at home. But it was also a generation that rarely boasted, that rarely called attention to itself, that rarely thought itself extraordinary. That was the lesson of sacrifice, and of humility in sacrifice, that Tim took from his father and no doubt passed on to his son.
“And I know that other parents passed that lesson on to other children, because the evidence is right here in this room. The sacrifices made by Boys and Girls Clubs, all across America, aren’t often recorded in newspapers, and don’t take place in war, and don’t mean risking life and limb. But they are sacrifices nonetheless: quiet gifts of your time, of your lives an hour at a time, of the small part of yourself you give when you mentor a child, or help teach him to read, or help keep her out of trouble. They are gifts given every day, gifts of discipline and learning and self-confidence, that have reached more than four and a half million young Americans.
“Boys and Girls Club mentors make those quiet gifts of time not because they expect to be praised or celebrated—in that, they’re like Tim’s father, who kept the proof of his heroism in a folder in a basement desk drawer for so many years. Boys and Girls Club mentors make those quiet gifts because they can’t stand waste—because they can’t stand the talents of any of our youth wasted in dropouts, in drugs, in violence, because all of that individual waste wastes our potential as a nation.
“Boys and Girls Club mentors make those gifts because they are inspired by stories like that of Natasha Knuckles, the Greater Washington Youth of the Year. Raised by a single mother who went back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree, Natasha is following in her footsteps, and she hopes one day to be a pediatrician with her own practice. In the meantime, she gives back to her community by tutoring and counseling at her local club in Germantown.
“Natasha’s achievements have been remarkable—but it takes nothing away from them to say that we look forward to the day when achievements like those do not have to be remarkable at all, when the doors of opportunity are open to every young American with the ambition to walk through them.
“Until that hoped-for day comes, Boys and Girls Clubs will be among the best places to find the virtue that marked Tim Russert’s father—’Big Russ’—and his generation: the virtue of seeing sacrifice in a good cause as its own reward.”