WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning to express his condolences on the passing of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, Chair of the House Administration Committee. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, it is with profound sadness that I rise this morning to note the passing of our colleague and friend, Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald - a dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly on behalf of her constituents in California's 37th Congressional District, and a devoted representative who cared deeply for those she served.
"Congresswoman Millender-McDonald was someone who never allowed the conventions of her surroundings to define the role she would play.
"Because she understood that education would unlock her budding potential as a community leader, Juanita achieved something extraordinary by earning a bachelor's degree from Redlands University at the age of 40, and a master's degree from California State University at the age of 47.
"Because she recognized her duty to give back just a little of what she had learned, Juanita made our children's futures her life's work by teaching math and English in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"Because she could not sit idly by while her neighbors struggled to get ahead, Juanita turned to public service in 1990 - becoming the first African American woman to serve on the Carson City Council, the first African American woman to chair two committees in the California State Assembly, and, eventually, the first African American woman to chair a full committee in the U.S. Congress.
"And because she never let go of her abiding faith in the fact that our tomorrows can be better than our today, Juanita will be remembered as a leader who inspired action, drove progress and labored diligently to improve the lives of people throughout our nation.
"Mr. Speaker, when Juanita passed on Sunday, advocates of equal rights for women and minorities lost a powerful voice in the U.S. Congress - one that always sought to bring people together by elevating the bonds that unite us as Americans and human beings.
"Children and the working poor lost a compassionate ally. Men and women seeking to participate in their own governance lost a steadfast guardian of voting rights who fought to expand the reach of democracy not only in spirit, but in practice as well.
"And defenders of human rights lost a champion of their cause who never missed an opportunity to remind the free world of its obligation to help alleviate suffering and restore fundamental human dignity to those who have gone without it for far too long - such as those suffering in Darfur.
"Juanita Millender-McDonald personified what it means to serve others before serving yourself.
"And Mr. Speaker, I want Juanita's husband, James, and her children and grandchildren to know that the thoughts and prayers of a grateful nation are with them in this hardest of times."