The U.S. House of Representatives today held a memorial service honoring the late Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) served as master of ceremonies for the event, which took place in National Statuary Hall, and included members of Rep. Payne’s family, Vice President Biden, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House and Senate lawmakers. Following are Speaker Boehner’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning and welcome to the Old Hall of the House. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the life of The Honorable Donald M. Payne, Representative from the State of New Jersey.
“With us today are members of Representative Payne’s family, as well as many colleagues and friends … all gathered just steps from the chamber where he served with great distinction.
“Just as the House is the body closest to the people, it is a body of people who are close-knit. The loss of one is felt by all. That is particularly true in the case of this distinguished gentleman from New Jersey.
“This morning, we will hear of a man who grew up in humble circumstances and devoted himself to lifting up others, whether they lived just down the block in Newark’s North Ward or thousands of miles away in South Africa.
“We will hear of a believer who rewrote the book on what it means to be a public servant. Don Payne never settled for being a sympathetic ear or a helping hand. He immersed himself in the plight of those he sought to help, glimpsed a better future, and gave his all to see it through.
“We will hear of a teacher who passed on his passion with such commitment that the great John Lewis would say Don’s heart ‘was big enough to serve all humankind.’
“Through Don Payne’s story, we see how much we are capable of, and how much we have left to do. So we are again drawn to that line in Luke: ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ Each of us has been enriched by Don Payne’s example, and we must be expected to honor it with service and sacrifice.
“God bless his family and God bless all of you for being here.”