Pelosi Floor Remarks Honoring Speaker Jim Wright

July 22, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House Floor today on the life and legacy of former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“I thank the gentleman for yielding time on this very special, special order.  And I thank you for affording me the opportunity to visit with Speaker Wright, as you mentioned, in just the recent past.  And on a number of occasions and visits to Texas, I’ve had the privilege of basking in his glow, because that's what we did here, in the Congress of the United States.

“When Jim Wright was the Speaker of the House, I had the privilege to serve under his leadership for a short period of time – because I was a relatively new Member at the time.  And when he would come to this floor, to this well, to speak as the Speaker of the House, his oratory was just so compelling.  People would stop what they were doing to listen to what Jim Wright had to say, and how he had to say it.  In some ways, that was of another era, that harkened back to how the business, the work of Congress was conducted – where people would come and actually listen to the debate.

“He was a man of great oratorical skill, of course, a legislative master.  But he was also a person of great courage and a person of great principle.  Tonight, we gather on the Floor to honor the memory of this great Speaker of the House.

“From the service that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II to the leadership that defined his 34 years in the House, Jim Wright exemplified commitment to the future of America’s families – a bright future.  He was a great patriot.  He was one of America’s most distinguished and dedicated public servants – a person renown for deep courage, brilliant eloquence, and complete mastery of the legislative process.

“Wright’s strong, decisive leadership built an indelible legacy of progress, not only in his beloved state of Texas, but around the world.  Jim Wright championed investing in our infrastructure – he had been a Member of the Transportation Committee.  He helped forge a path to peace to Central America, and for that, I will always be grateful to him for his brilliance, for his leadership – but especially for his courage.  It was hard to do.  Jim Wright sought prosperity for every hard-working family.

“Speaker Wright was a patriot who held the respect of friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  Even after he left the House, Wright continued to contribute to building a better future for our country – sharing his wisdom with new generations of leaders as a professor at Texas Christian University.

“When Jim Wright was presented the gavel in 1987, becoming Speaker of the 100th Congress, he spoke of the enduring promise of our Constitution – and of the sacred responsibility it entrusts the members of the House.  He said: ‘We are its custodians.  Those men of principle and vision who penned that deed to freedom had in mind a very special place for the Congress. ‘Ours is a creative and dynamic role.  We alone can legislate.  Only we can appropriate.  We are expected to initiate, to innovate, to see the obstacles on the road ahead and chart a path around them for our nation…

“He went on to say, ‘Let us, with gratitude for the privilege that is ours, ask Almighty God that He shall grant to each of us a portion of the vision to see the right; the courage to stand for the right; the honesty to admit human error; And the love that binds our nation and our people together, to the end that we may continue to be not the envy of the world but an inspiration to the world – and an instrument of His peace.’

“28 years later, Jim Wright’s prayer for bravery and humility still speaks to us through the decades.  He was, indeed, a person who had the vision to see the right, the courage to stand for the right, and for that, we are enormously grateful.

“Speaker Jim Wright never stopped serving our country, and his achievements will stand forever as a living monument to his determined vision and legislative ability. I learned a lot from Jim Wright in the short period of time that I served with him in Congress.  And, from time to time, I share those lessons with newer Members of Congress.  I do so – I learned a lot, as I said – but also with great humor.

“We hope it is a comfort to Speaker Wright’s family, friends, students and colleagues that so many of us share their grief and some come to the floor to join with them in celebrating his memory.  May his legacy long keep watch over the House he led – and may it challenge all of us to do more and do better on behalf of America’s hard-working families.

“Thank you to Jim Wright’s family for sharing him with all of us.  It was an honor to serve with him.  It was an even bigger privilege to call him friend.  I miss that we will not be seeing him from time to time in Texas.  I always invited him to the Congress for any special occasion we had.  And on one or two occasions, he did accept, and that was an honor for this House.  With that, I yield back to the gentleman, and I thank him for yielding, and for calling this special order.”

Congressman Veasey.  Thank you Leader Pelosi.  I appreciate those kind words about Speaker Wright.  And I know that his family will appreciate everything that you had to share.  Thank you so much.

Leader Pelosi.  I do want to add to my remarks, because I was so taken by speaking about Jim Wright: But on the occasions that I did see him in Texas, on the most recent occasions, how he expressed the pride he took in your service in the Congress.  So congratulations to you for carrying on that beautiful legacy.  Thank you.