WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at the memorial service for House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, held in the Capitol today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Madame Speaker and colleagues, Madame Secretary and distinguished guests, Annette and family members:
“Today, we mourn the loss of a wonderful man – a giant both in this institution and internationally.
“But we also celebrate an inspirational life marked by unimaginable hardship and tragedy, as well as soaring love and triumph.
“I was honored to know Tom Lantos for nearly three decades, and this I can attest: Tom had a backbone of steel – and a heart of commitment, compassion and courage.
“No member of this body has been a more compelling voice for the rights of individuals – whatever their background, wherever they lived, whatever the excuse used to oppress them.
“When Tom spoke – especially on matters dealing with human rights, America’s role in the world, and the imperative of confronting and defeating tyranny – his words contained a moral clarity and intellectual gravity that were seldom matched.
“Those of us who had the opportunity to be with Tom when we met with people from around the world knew that he would be diplomatic, but candid. There was no uncertainty in his message.
“Quite simply, Tom was a great man, a great American, and a great humanitarian, whose remarkable life is an inspiration to all of us and a reminder of the indomitable human spirit.
“Although he was unable to attend the United Nations’ annual commemoration of the Holocaust last month, Katrina delivered his remarks, which called on the international community to ‘dedicate ourselves to stopping current tragedies such as the genocide in Darfur . . . And to preventing such inhuman cruelty in the future.’
"‘The veneer of civilization is paper thin,’ he said. ‘We are its guardians, and we can never rest.’
“Until his last day on this earth, Tom Lantos never rested because of what he had seen and experienced.
“He was an indefatigable advocate for human rights and basic decency.
“And, he was joined in this journey by his beloved Annette, a kindred spirit born of equal experience, with an untiring commitment to those who needed a voice.
“I know of no couple that I have ever met that were as united – truly as one – in matrimony, in spirit and in life. Annette is with us, and therefore Tom is with us still.
“May we honor him, remember him, and hold high the torch of human liberty that he held so high, so successfully, for so long.
“God bless you, Tom Lantos.”