U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined the Congressional Black Caucus, House Democratic Leadership and members of the Florida Congressional Delegation for a Celebration of Life for the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., in National Statuary Hall. Below are Pelosi’s remarks:
Good morning. As House speaker, it is my official honor to welcome loved ones, colleagues and friends of Congressman Alcee Hastings to this special celebration of his beautiful life.
Alcee’s passing is a great loss for America, which is attested to by the participation of so many distinguished members, the [presence] – the presence of former colleagues, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Senior Advisor to the President Cedric Richmond and, of course, a great honor for all of us, the presence of the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris.
Thank you to Alcee’s family: his beloved Patricia, his children Jody, Chelsea and Maisha, his grandchildren and other loved ones, Zola and Kori – for giving Congress the privilege of paying tribute to him with this ceremony in Statuary Hall of the Capitol of the United States.
Good morning again. As we gather in Statuary Hall, let us know that there are many more Members of Congress who wanted to join us today, but COVID prevented that.
But, Patricia, that did not prevent them from paying their respects since the news of Alcee’s passing. We have flowers in his – he always sat in the same place, and our Members can attest, where we could go for advice and guidance and friendship and the rest. And those flowers have been there for a couple of weeks and wrapped in red. Wrapped in red, are they not?
Chairman Jeffries. Yes.
Speaker Pelosi. Kappas. Again, mostly the Florida delegation. Of course, the Congressional Black Caucus. Thank you, Joyce Beatty, for orchestrating so much of this. But again, all of our colleagues appreciated and loved Alcee Hastings, admired him and send their respects to Patricia, to the family.
Today, we gather in Statuary Hall, which once served as the House Chamber. We stand where Lincoln served; he saw the same clock – heard the same clock ticking, he saw – under the gaze of Clio, the muse of history. Clio reminds the men and women who serve here that these hallowed halls are a part of history, as she writes down in her book what she sees.
It is fitting that we honor Alcee in Statuary Hall, because Alcee Hastings was an historic force in our Democracy. Alcee’s life was the story of America: a son of domestic workers, who became one of the most influential Members of Congress. But Alcee was not content to live the American Dream; he insisted on ensuring that others had that opportunity, too, and share in that promise.
As an attorney, civil rights activist and judge, and of his nearly thirty years in the Congress – 28, you said, Steny? – in the Congress, he fought tirelessly to create opportunities to lift up working families, communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, women and children. He never gave up or backed down, because he believed that America must live up to its promise of ‘liberty and justice for all.’
All who knew Alcee knew him as a champion for the most vulnerable. That has been said again and again in a most bipartisan way. And his crusade for justice knew no bounds, spiritually or geographically. As he fought for families at home, Alcee was [a] respected force for human rights, economic prosperity and justice and security around the world.
Steny pointed out the tie – it’s in the program and right up here, with that smile. I don’t know what socks he had on then with that tie on, but it probably –
This commitment was recognized by his being named the Chairman of the esteemed Helsinki Commission, the first Black American to hold this position. As Speaker, it was my honor to join Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to recommend this appointment to President George Bush.
Alcee was a trusted voice in the intelligence community, and a Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee. He was a leader in countering terrorism and protecting our nation. His passing is, therefore, a great loss both for America and for the world.
Congressman Alcee Hastings was a man of pride and dignity, we know that. He never took no for an answer. That’s why we were happy to accommodate his wish that ‘My Way’ be sung at this tribute – what song, what music would he want? ‘My Way.’ Now, let’s just review for a moment:
‘For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught
Not to say the things that he truly feels
And not the words of someone who kneels
Let the record show I took all the blows. I did it my way.’
Isn’t that Alcee? And how beautiful it was sung before.
Alcee’s electrifying spirit, boundless compassion and great, and often devastating, wit –
Wit – sometimes funny and sometimes sharp – will be greatly missed, as will his leadership and friendship by all blessed to have known him and all of us privileged to call him colleague.
May it be a comfort to his wife Patricia, to his children, Jody, Chelsea and so many – and Maisha and so many who mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time. And Zola and Kori, to you as well.
Now, it is my honor to present this American flag – where’s the flag? Oh, in front. They told me because of COVID we can’t pass things, so – this American flag that was flown over the Capitol the day that Alcee passed on.
This flag waved goodbye to him. Waved goodbye, saying ‘liberty and justice for all.’ That’s our pledge to the flag. That was Alcee’s pledge to the world. And so, our pledge to the flag – ‘liberty and justice’ – was Alcee’s life’s commitment.
Thank you, Alcee Hastings, for the blessing of your leadership and friendship. We all pray that you will rest in peace. Thank you.
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