Pelosi Floor Speech Honoring Warren Hellman

Dec 20, 2011
Press Release

Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today to honor the life and legacy of Warren Hellman, who passed away on Sunday. Below are the Leader’s remarks.

“Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise to pay tribute to the passing of a man whose legacy to San Francisco is a great one. I rise to pay tribute to the life and legacy of Warren Hellman: a community leader, a San Francisco legend, and an American success story. Sadly, Warren passed away on December 18th surrounded by his loving family. It’s the way he lived: surrounded by his loving family.

“Warren was a tremendously successful businessman, and it was his business acumen that allowed him to pursue his true passion: philanthropy. He was a renaissance man. That’s how his daughter described him. That’s how we all saw him.

“With his deep generosity, intellectual curiosity, his visionary dynamism, he changed the face of our city of San Francisco. His legacy will live on through his contributions to education, to music, to civic life, and the memory we all happily have of him being such a model athlete, something he took great pride in.

“When Warren Hellman saw an opportunity to enrich our city, he acted upon it. He strengthened and beautified Golden Gate Park. He worked to end homelessness. He supported the San Francisco Free Clinic, many of those people availing themselves of services there being homeless. When he saw concern about dwindling local news in the Internet age, he helped form the Bay Citizen online journalism site. Warren served—as I mentioned about education—on the board of Mills College and University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business. He was in a leadership role in anything that he did.

“I mentioned that he was an athlete. He supported, he endowed aquatic sports at UC Berkeley, where he had played, when he was in college, on the polo team, again as a student. Whether it was bicycling, swimming, running, skiing, you name it, Warren was the best.

“He was a lover of music, a lover of family, and a lover of life. The three-day concert he founded, well it used to be called Strictly Bluegrass, but as the program expanded and more entertainers wanted to participate—the audience turned out to that in the hundreds of thousands— it was changed to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. So it wasn’t Strictly Bluegrass. It was held each year in Golden Gate Park, and allowed hundreds of thousands of fans each year to enjoy the music that he loved, mostly bluegrass, and it was all free. Warren was involved in every aspect of the festival, including personally recruiting musicians he admired, and an invitation from Warren was one that was warmly responded to by the biggest names in music. It is so fitting that Speedway Meadow, the site of the festival, was renamed Hellman Hollow just last week, just last week, so I know this pleased him and his family immensely.

“I mentioned his interest in the education and the arts. He and his wife Chris were really such magnificent patrons of the San Francisco Ballet. It’s hard to match, certainly to surpass the contribution they made intellectually, and by way of encouragement in every way, and certainly philanthropically.

“With the passing of Warren Hellman, San Francisco has lost a beloved champion. But we honor his memory and his enthusiasm by celebrating his many contributions.

“I said that he was good at everything he did and that included being a friend, a friend to so many who will miss him so much. I am proud to call Warren a friend. And I hope it is a comfort to his Chris, his wife, and his family whom he cherished and couldn’t talk enough about him. He was so very proud of them and rightfully so. I hope it is a comfort to them that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.

“Tomorrow there will be a public service to honor his life and legacy. It will represent an outpouring of people from every aspect of San Francisco life, every economic strata from homeless people to the most privileged and successful in terms of their measure of success but it will also represent people in the public and private and non-profit sector. This was a very special person, and I want everyone who follows the work of Congress and the pride that we all take in representing our districts and our constituents to know how proud we all were of the life and leadership of Warren Hellman.”