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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner presented the John W. McCormack Award of Excellence this afternoon in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol. Speaker John W. McCormack served in Congress from 1928 until 1971 and served as Speaker from 1961 to 1971. The award in his honor recognizes long-time employees of the U.S. House of Representatives who have displayed dedication and bipartisanship. This year, the awardees are House Republican Leader John Boehner’s late Chief of Staff, Paula T. Nowakowski and former Legislative Counsel of the House, Pope Barrow. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:
"Good afternoon. I just went by the Leader’s office, so we could join you to come in here, and I picked up these three golf tees. They are in a bowl in his office, and I am sure he would love to invite you all in to share those.
"It is an emotional day for us today. As Speaker of the House, it is an honor to join the distinguished Republican Leader in presenting the McCormack Award for Excellence, named after another Speaker—Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts. Of his own politics, Speaker McCormack once said: ‘I am a progressive who believes that the road to progress is reasonable compromise.’ The McCormack Award for Excellence is one of the highest honors that Members of Congress can bestow upon those who make progress and reasonable compromise possible—the staff of the House of Representatives. Their names are not household words. They proudly serve our nation’s families.
"This year, we are honored to present the McCormack Award to Pope Barrow and to Paula Nowakowski. I am pleased to yield now to the distinguished Republican Leader, Mr. Boehner."
Speaker Pelosi Remarks on Paula Nowakowski and Pope Barrow:
"Leader Boehner has spelled out how our House of Representatives was well-served by the relationship developed over the years between John Lawrence and Paula and between John Boehner and George Miller. It was one of mutual respect.
"I, too, want to acknowledge the presence of our Democratic Leader, Steny Hoyer, who was a friend of Paula’s as well — and two of our Members, Zoe Lofgren and John Barrow — no relation. Oh, what’s the relationship? Cousins! The beat goes on. [Laughter.] And I see the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
"As you know, when Paula first left us — all the Members were present on the floor when we paid tribute to Paula at that very sad time. And I hope that it was a comfort to you that so many people from across the aisle and across the Capitol praised her leadership and service to our country, spoke of her with great affection, and certainly, with great admiration, Michael and Mrs. Nowakowski.
"Paula proudly served with Leader Boehner — we know that — and devoutly stood by her conservative principles. But Paula also knew, as John indicated, that serving our nation, not any particular party, must be the center of our work here. On many occasions, Paula crossed the aisle with my staff to find solutions to institutional matters. John and I do a lot of housekeeping around here. She knew that it was possible, again, as John said, to disagree without being disagreeable. She was a professional. She embodied that professionalism and a commitment that characterized, really, so many of us committee and staff members here — committee staff and personal staff members.
"She was a model. She was a model. Paula was vibrant and full of life. She had a brilliant intellect and a strong personality. The news of her sudden passing in January stunned and saddened the entire Capitol community. But Paula was strengthened by her faith, counting Pope John Paul II as one of her heroes. In her passing, we are comforted by our own faith that she is a better place. That’s what she believed. That’s what we know.
"Today, as we honor Paula, we also honor Paula’s mother, Teo Nowakowski, and Paula’s partner, Michael Smith. Thank you. You honor us with your presence today. Thank you.
"Paula was devoted to preserving the institution of the House of Representatives. So too, was Pope Barrow. He served Congress for 40 years — longer than most Members. Twice as long as most Members. [Laughter.]
"Over the decades that Pope served as the House Legislative Counsel, he wrote bills that affected every American — from the air we breathe, the food we eat, to the public lands that belong to all of us. He always did so with the utmost impartiality, with the closest attention to ensuring that the laws that we passed here perform as Congress intended.
"As we honor Pope, we honor those who worked alongside him in the Legislative Counsel’s office. What a job. Not twenty-four-seven, much more than that, right Pope? Much more than that. That would be easy. Recently the Leg Counsel’s office has spent hundreds of hours, often working through the nights and weekends, drafting the health care legislation. They did so with the highest level of excellence — standards set by Pope Barrow himself.
"I saw Pope’s talent, professionalism, and diligence firsthand as he worked relentlessly to help create a viable Presidio Trust for the successful future of San Francisco’s premier urban national park in San Francisco. We went from military post, to national park with his help. He worked countless hours to craft the right language that would ensure bipartisan support — that was very important to us — and ultimately passage into law.
"I hope that you will consider the Presidio as part of your legacy. I know you’re a young man and we’re not talking legacy but when you do, I hope you will count it as part of your legacy of service in the Congress.
"Pope dedicated his life to public service, but, of course, that’s the family business. Pope’s great, great, great grandfather served in the House, the Senate, and as Governor from Georgia. His great-grandfather also served in the Senate, and as we know, today Pope’s cousin, Congressman John Barrow, is a distinguished Member of this body and he shares that proud lineage as well.
"During his time as House Leg Counsel, Pope was an expert on the myriad issues before Congress, but he always maintained a diverse set of outside interests as well from whitewater kayaking to sailing to vegetable gardening. This May, he will set sail on a race to Bermuda. His record in the House demonstrates that he will be a particularly tenacious competitor.
"With gratitude for his decades of service, we are now pleased, John and I, to present the John W. McCormack Award of Excellence to Pope Barrow and invite Pope to come forward to say a few words."