Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616
Charleston, West Virginia – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today in Charleston, West Virginia at the funeral of Senator Robert C. Byrd, who died earlier this week. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
“Good afternoon. Mr. President, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Leaders Reid and McConnell, Bishop Grove, so many friends of Senator Byrd who are gathered here. I am so pleased to join my colleagues from West Virginia—Mr. Rahall, who is a chairman and a great leader in the Congress of the United States; Congressman Alan Mollohan, he is a chairman as well; Shelley Moore Capito. I am pleased to be with them as well as our delegation from the House of Representatives led by our Leader Steny Hoyer in the House.
“I bring, as Speaker of the House, I sadly have the privilege of bringing the condolences of the House of Representatives to Marjorie and to Mona and the entire Byrd family. As a friend of Senator Byrd, I do so with great sadness.
“But happily, thanks to the Byrd family, some of us had the opportunity to sing Senator Byrd’s praises in his presence in December, when he became the longest-serving Member of Congress in American history.
“I noted then that Senator Byrd’s Congressional service began in the House of Representatives. In those six years in the House, he demonstrated what would become the hallmarks of his commitment: his love of the people of West Virginia, his passion for history and public service, and his remarkable oratorical skills.
“And I am going to talk to you about his service in the House briefly. In 1953, this is one of his earliest speeches, he came to the floor of the House and he said: ‘I learned quite a long time before becoming a Member of this House that there is an unwritten rule in the minds of some, perhaps, which is expected to cover the conduct of new members in a legislative body to the extent that they should be often seen but seldom be heard; I have observed this rule,’ he said, ‘very carefully up to this time and I shall continue to do so… however…the book of Ecclesiastes…says: ‘To everything there is a season… a time to keep silence and a time to speak.’ And he decided it was time for him to speak.
“He went on in that speech; it was one of his earliest speeches. He went on in that speech to quote not only the bible but Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, and Daniel Webster. And, Mr. President, this was a speech about world trade.
“Though he thrived in the House, when he moved on to the Senate, Senator Byrd remarked that he was happy to leave behind the limitations on speaking time on the House floor.
“On a personal moment, I’ll never forget a dinner I hosted for him in the early 80’s when he was running for reelection at that time, in California.
“After dinner, we didn’t know what to expect. We were all so nervous to be in the presence of such a great person. And what did he do? He pulled out his fiddle and regaled us with West Virginia tunes and told us great stories about each and every one of you. That was an act of friendship that I will never forget.
“Later, when I came to Congress, I told Senator Byrd how my father, who had served in Congress, gave me the image of a coalminer carved in coal. It is the only thing I have from my father’s office as a Member of Congress. It had been a gift to him from Jennings Randolph, who had represented West Virginia so well, and it sat in my father’s office when he was in the House of Representatives.
“It now sits in the Speaker’s office. It is in my West Virginia corner, along with a silver tray from Senator Byrd which I love especially because it is engraved, ‘With thanks, from Robert and Erma.’
“In the beginning of my comments, I mentioned a speech of Senator Byrd’s on the House floor. That day, in 1953, he quoted the words of Daniel Webster. These words, when you come to the Capitol, are etched on the wall of the chamber high above the Speaker’s chair. And these words would come to define his leadership but he voiced them in that earliest speech. Senator Byrd said, ‘Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests and see whether we also in our day and generation may not perform something worthy to be remembered.’ Daniel Webster.
“Senator Byrd’s service, and his leadership, were more than worthy to be remembered for many generations to come. And as my colleague Mr. Rahall said, it is very appropriate that we are celebrating Robert Byrd’s life and putting him to rest in the week of July 4th; he was a great American patriot. And as Governor Manchin said, we shall never see his like again.
“May he rest in peace. Amen.”