Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today during a Special Order hour marking the passing of Congressman Donald Payne (NJ-10). Below are his remarks and a link to the video.
“This is a sad day for America. It's a sad day for the Congress. It's a sad day for our African-American brothers and sisters who have lost a real leader and an extraordinary friend. I first met Donald Payne when I was in my mid 20's. He was active in the Young Democrats of New Jersey, I was active in the Young Democrats of Maryland. That's how we first met. Don was about six years older than I am and so I looked on him as – when you're in your middle twenties, somebody in their thirties is really old. But we all saw him as a very serious individual – serious about his activities, serious about his objectives, serious about the people.
“He had an extraordinarily productive career as the Leader has mentioned, as I know other speakers before me have mentioned. He was a teacher in the tradition of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, a fellow Marylander, said that it is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men. Donald Payne was focused on that concept as a teacher. Then throughout his life he was focused on making sure that America kept the faith with people around the world, that its values, that its hopes, its visions for ourselves were also our hopes and visions for others.
“Donald Payne, before he came to the Congress, I think had traveled to more countries than perhaps any Member of Congress. He cared about people, particularly people who lived in Africa, and I think there was no Member who knew Africa better than Donald Payne. No Member who risked more for the welfare of those who live on that continent.
“My first trip as Majority Leader, Barbara Lee is here, she went with us, I went to Sudan and Darfur. I made that my first trip because at that point in time it was one of the most troubled, and still remains, lands on our globe. Donald Payne unfortunately could not go on that trip. But we had a briefing before we went and Donald Payne was there. It was clear from those who briefed us that Donald Payne was obviously the person they looked to for knowledge and insight into how we could get from where we were then to what is now the independent South Sudan and hopefully it will remain so, notwithstanding the violence of Sudan itself.
“Donald Payne was an extraordinarily conscientious member of this body. But more than that, he was a man who cared about his fellow men and fellow women. Donald Payne was a serious member of this body. That does not mean he was always serious. He had a sense of humor. He was a wonderful, engaging person. But he was serious about what he did, and it reflected how deeply he cared about those whom he served and about his country.
“We could all speak for the Special Order after Special Order after Special Order and still not reach the magnitude of praise and thanks that he deserved. Suffice it to say that this body was a better place for his service. And as Reverend Cleaver so eloquently intoned, we were better people for having been his friend, his colleague, and his co-worker. I am pleased to join all of you who, like me, knew Donald Payne as a Member of Congress, yes, but as a human being, as an individual, as someone who cared about us and we cared about him.
“I join Leader Pelosi and all of you and our friends on the other side of the aisle because Don worked across the aisle. Don was not an observer of partisan differences, although he understood they existed. His objective was to work with all for the betterment of all. So I’m pleased to have this opportunity to join all of you in thanking God that he gave us Don Payne, and that he gave him sufficient years to make an extraordinary mark here in this country and around the world.”