Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

PELOSI -- Remarks at Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring ALS Advocate and Former NFL Player Steve Gleason

January 15, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congressional Leadership and other Members of Congress to participate in a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) advocate and former National Football League (NFL) player, Steve Gleason.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  As Speaker of the House, it is my honor to welcome Steve Gleason and his beloved family –

[Applause]

His wife, Michel, his son Rivers, his parents Gayle and Mike, and his brother Kyle, to the U.S. Capitol on this historic, happy day.

We come here today to honor Steve Gleason: a true American hero, a leader of outstanding courage and unmatched resolve who has inspired a nation and transformed the lives of millions of people living with ALS.

Steve, in accepting this Gold Medal, the highest honor this Congress can bestow, you bring luster to this award and you bring pride to our nation.

I’m very happy about the timing of today because, coincidentally or not, we celebrate Steve’s Gold Medal as we celebrate LSU’s title victory this week.

[Applause]

***

It is my honor to join our distinguished Leadership of the Congress of the United States, the Louisiana delegation, the Washington State delegation, for this very special event, and I want to thank each and every one of you for being here to make it even extra special for all of us, especially for Steve. 

I want to acknowledge Drew Brees, and I know it's your birthday, but I understand it's also Baylen's birthday today.  Happy birthday Baylen to you.  You share a birthday with Martin Luther King.  Today’s his birthday, as well, so happy birthday to you.  We're honored that you're in the Capitol to share your birthday. 

Welcome to the Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Mr. Commissioner, thank you for being here.  Gayle Benson, thank you so much for the Benson family contribution to sports in America.  And I'm especially pleased to welcome former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and his wife Chandler, who are here and he's just been selected – I guess, is the word – to be in the football Hall of Fame.  Congratulations, Paul Tagliabue.

[Applause]

While we were coming in here I met the Wall family.  Three little boys.  They traveled 16 hours from Mississippi.  They just recently lost their father.  Little boys, welcome to all of you as well and thank you for making the effort to be here – and also recognize all of our guests from the NFL and also Steve's fellow ‘who dats’ from New Orleans.  Any ‘who dats’ here from New Orleans?  ‘Who dats!’

[Applause]

It's an honor that is fitting that we honor Steve Gleason in Statuary Hall: this pantheon of patriots, where great Americans are immortalized in marble and bronze.  In addition to the heroes that we have here today,  I would like to acknowledge Ady Barkan, who has taught many of us in Congress about the challenges of ALS.  He too is a father with young children. 

It is – these stories are so, so compelling and the fact that Steve Gleason has made life better for so many people.  He's a great American whose very name is synonymous with hope.  The hope he restored to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina – and I won't go into the football plays because they've been appropriately addressed – the hope you give to those living with ALS and to their families, and the hope that you instill in all of our hearts as you have turned adversity into opportunity.  As you have said, ‘from adversity, heroes are born’ – and you are truly one of them. 

For nine years Steve has lived each day in a tribute to his motto, ‘no white flags.’  His refusal to surrender his fight has helped thousands of people win theirs.  In a fight against a disease that robs people of their speech, Steve has helped give so many back their voices. 

It's really important to know how grateful we should be to Steve. 

Thank you, Steve, for providing cutting-edge equipment to tens of thousands with neuromuscular diseases or injuries.  Thank you for ensuring passage of key laws, to ensure access to speech generating devices for those living with ALS.  Thank you for developing eye tracking technology for those who are paralyzed.  And thank you for mobilizing the largest ALS research project for people living with ALS are front and center of the action.

Of course Steve’s most beautiful achievements are Rivers and Gray.  And we are thrilled that Rivers is with us today.  Hi, Rivers. 

[Laughter]

Sitting there.

We're also touched by the beautiful video journals that Steve has recorded for his children which will serve as an immortal reminder of his boundless love.

Steve's story reminds us that we are all just one accident, one incident, one diagnosis, one phone call away from just life-changing situations and needing quality, affordable health care.  All Americans have the right to health care, including technologies, equipment and care services that help them live happy, healthy and meaningful lives.  You are making that possible.

Sometimes – I, too, am a Catholic, and, as you know – faith, hope, charity.  That’s – when people ask me, ‘Where is hope?’  I say, ‘Hope is where it always has been, sitting right there between faith and charity.’ 

Faith, that Steve has, and sitting between that, faith, hope and the goodness of others.  And truly Steve's faith and goodness have given many people hope.  Hope in a better future for those with ALS and for those all struggling in the face of adversity.

As Steve has said, in his words, ‘If we have a purpose in life beyond being a cog in the human machine, mine is to help inspire people.  I would like to motivate the world.’  And, indeed you have. 

Steve, you have indeed motivated the world.  Congratulations on this award.  It was a symbol of your courage and the courage of all who refused to give up or give in to adversity.

And now it is time for us to present the Congressional Gold Medal to Steve Gleason. 

Steve, come forward.

[Applause]