Pelosi: In Shaping History, Senator Byrd Built a Better Future for All Americans

June 29, 2010
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon to pay tribute to the life of Senator Robert C. Byrd, who passed away yesterday morning. Below are the Speaker's remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I am honored to join you, Chairman Rahall, Congresswoman Capito in singing the praises of a great man, Senator Byrd.

“I rise today to remember the extraordinary life and legacy of Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia - a man who loved his state, loved this country, and was such an important part of this Congress.

“Throughout his remarkable career, he worked for all Americans, and he never stopped fighting for the people of West Virginia.

“While some simply, while we are here we all take pride in bearing witness to history, Senator Byrd shaped it, and in shaping history, he built a better future for all Americans.

“His story was the true embodiment of the American dream. An orphan at a young age, Senator Byrd refused to allow his circumstances to limit the reach of his potential or his ability.

“A son of West Virginia's coal country, he was the first in his family to be educated above the second grade.  He worked as a butcher and a welder, and entered office to serve his community and his neighbors.  In doing so, he would ultimately make America a better place for every American.

“Though many note his mastery of the Senate, I note that Robert Byrd's service began here in the Congress here in the House of Representatives in 1953.  His service in the House is a source of pride for all of us, though Senator Byrd remarked that he was happy to leave behind the limitations on speaking time that apply on the House floor.

“In fact, I checked the Congressional Record myself in the year that Senator Byrd first came to Congress.  I found that in one single floor speech, he managed to quote the book of Ecclesiastes, Shakespeare's ‘The Merchant of Venice,' Daniel Webster, and Rudyard Kipling…all while discussing trade policy.  That was a sign of the great oratory that would come over the next 57 years.

“In that time, Senator Byrd would become Congress' foremost scholar on the institutions of our democracy.  He always spoke truth to power.  He served as a voice of reason.

“He was always a gentleman, charming any friend or foe.

“Today, the entire nation mourns the loss of this great champion, leader, and public servant.

“For more than 57 years, Congress has benefited from his wisdom and passion.  For generations to come, Robert C. Byrd's name will remain etched in history books for his accomplishments and for his courage.

“Senator Byrd has gone home to be with his beloved Erma.  We hope it is a comfort to the Byrd family that so many join them in grieving their loss at this sad time.”