Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Honor of Jack Nicklaus
“Good afternoon. Speaker Boehner, thank you for bringing us all together today. It’s an honor to be here with Leader McConnell and Leader Reid, Senator Portman, [Congressman] Tiberi, Sherrod Brown – thank you all for making this possible through the legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Jack Nicklaus. What a thrill for all of us to be here.
“When I first had the privilege and the excitement and the joy of meeting Jack Nicklaus, it was when we had the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Arnold Palmer. And that was pretty thrilling for all of us, as well. Jack spoke that day. But when I met Barbara and when I met Jack, I had the privilege of having a conversation with them. And people came up to me afterwards and said: ‘What is your impression? What is your impression of Jack Nicklaus?’ I said, in a word, ‘Saintly.’ Saintly. And of course, meeting Barbara, I knew why. Hearing Jack Nicklaus II’s comments today reinforced that impression of this great man.
“As Jack the second said, we are in the company of, arguably, the best golfer of all time – certainly the most celebrated. With his focus, his love of the sport, and his swing, Jack Nicklaus never ceased to awe his audiences, whether as an amateur or a as a pro. ‘The Golden Bear's unparalleled 18 major championships – those victories are a benchmark that all others are measured by and seek to achieve. Jack Nicklaus is quite possibly one of the greatest individual athletes ever. That’s an applause line.
“And we are here in the Rotunda of the Capitol to celebrate much more than his golf greatness – we are here to honor his goodness as well. Jack Nicklaus is a champion not simply because of his staggering excellence on the golf course, but his generosity with and through the game itself. Time and again, Jack Nicklaus has sought to share the gifts he was granted by the game; pouring himself into enabling people of all abilities and incomes to experience the focus and fulfillment that golf afforded him.
“He has been generous with his vision – and today at American Lake, our brave disabled veterans can find relaxation and renewal on a course Nicklaus designed especially for them. Thank you, Jack Nicklaus, for your courtesy to our men and women in uniform.
“He has been generous with his values – and today, The First Tee youth development program Nicklaus champions has brought the character-building lessons within golf to more than 9 million participants since 1997. Nine million participants. Of course, he has been generous with his philanthropy as well – as embodied by the fabulous work of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and the many other causes that have been strengthened by his and Barbara’s support.
“A few years before ending his legendary 44-year pro career, Nicklaus came to the Capitol to testify before the Education and Workforce Committee. There, Nicklaus shared the cherished lesson his instructor Jack Grout taught him at an early age. He said to the Committee: ‘It wasn’t what you achieved in sports that mattered, so much as what you achieved in sportsmanship.’
“Few sportsmen have been so dedicated to those beyond the reach of their game as ‘the Golden Bear.’ In the afterword to his autobiography, Jack Nicklaus wrote: ‘It is not those inside the ropes who control golf’s future; it is those many thousands – millions, indeed – outside the ropes who are the future of the game.’ Today, we celebrate a champion who has excelled on the green and embraced leadership far beyond the links and outside the ropes.
“We herald a long and storied career: of competition, courage, discipline, of generosity, of success. We honor a man whose love of the game is exceeded only by his love for his beautiful family – his wife Barbara, his five children, and 22 grandchildren. We thank his family for sharing him with America. Thank you to the Nicklaus family.
“If you ask anyone – as I did in preparation for today – to tell you one thing about Jack Nicklaus, they always say the same thing: ‘That man loves his family.’
“For his achievements; for his philanthropy; for his contributions to so many aspects of our society; for being, in every way, one of the greatest sportsmen in history: It is a privilege, indeed it is thrilling – right my colleagues? – thrilling to join my colleagues in honoring Jack Nicklaus with the Congressional Gold Medal. Thank you.”