Washington, D.C. – Every state in America sends two statues of exemplary citizens to the U.S. Capitol to represent them in Washington. By law, every state’s statues must be made with bronze or marble.
These statues are living symbols who represent the nation’s memory, patriotism, and national creed: out of many, one.
Today, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Congressional leaders added one of America’s best authors, and a fitting addition to the People’s House, Nebraska’s Willa Cather, to the ranks of the Capitol’s statues.
Remarks as delivered, or you may watch online here.
“When you think about the hall in which we sit.
“This was where Congress actually served.
“This is where pioneers debated whether we stayed together as a union.
“You go to the back of the room, a little tile, that’s where Abraham Lincoln served for one term.
“A lot of history was made in this room.
“But a little history is being made today… correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t know of any other time we unveiled a statue from a state that both statues of those states stood right next to one another.
“And it’s the entrance to the chambers.
“So as anyone walks, you’ll see these two today.
“It’s also historic that our pioneering artist made history today, but he’s making history by bringing a new pioneer pioneering woman into these chambers as well.
“76 years ago, one of America’s greatest authors passed away from cancer.
“Reflecting on her life, the New York Times wrote that ‘no American novelist was more purely an artist than Willa Cather.’
“Ladies and gentlemen, what an understatement.
“The subject of Willa Cather’s work is known to us.
“She was the daughter of Red Cloud, Nebraska, give a voice to the people she knew, the pioneers of the American frontier.
“Her characters and settings were written with such depth and emotion that they still captivate readers to this day.
“As a Nobel Prize winning writer, Sinclair Lewis, later said, ‘the United States knows Nebraska because of Willa Cather’s books.’
“And today, Congress will always know her because of the statue as well.
“That is a legacy worth celebrating. One that reminds us [that] America is a nation of pioneers.
“And [in] her novels and short stories Cather portrayed a band of pioneers on the Nebraskan plains, who took responsibility for their lives, and their own futures.
“As she wrote in one of her novels, ‘there was nothing but land, not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.’
“Cather knew that pioneers sees these materials and they build on it.
“Pioneers have a vision of a better life beyond the immediate world they currently live.
“Pioneers are risk takers, who have the courage to brave the unknown, to reach new goals.
“Pioneers use independent judgment and come up with new ideas and innovation that often make the world a better place.
“For the rest of us. Nebraskans are lucky to call Cather one of their own, but ultimately, her work belongs here.
“Because it is American to the core.
“Her authenticity, emotion, artistry spoke as of Americans fundamental values.
“Ultimately, it reminds us that this is a land of opportunity.
“Willa’s statue stands today as a monument to her incredible legacy and our peoples incredible spirit.
“Today, we should celebrate the progress that America continues to make as the land of opportunity, but is equally important that we follow in the footsteps of Willa’s pioneers.
“Let us strive to continue to become a more perfect union in which every American chooses personal responsibility over passiveness, risk taking over risk aversion, and opportunity over oppression.
“Her words will live in a book, but her legacy and her teachings will create new generations that strive to be a more perfect union and the pioneering spirit that she saw in Nebraska to not only make America, but make the world, a better place to live in.”