Pelosi Floor Speech in Tribute to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke

Dec 17, 2010
Press Release

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

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning in support of a bipartisan House resolution honoring the life and work of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died earlier this week. Below are the Speaker’s remarks.

“Thank you very much. I thank the Chairman [Mr. Berman] for yielding, and I commend him and the Ranking Member, soon to be Chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for giving us this opportunity to address the resolution presented by Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who chairs the Foreign Ops Subcommittee. All of you on Foreign Affairs and on Foreign Ops in Appropriations know full well the magnitude of the leader that Richard Holbrooke was.

“As I address some personal remarks about him, I want to say how significant it was that he understood the important role that Congress plays in our foreign policy—whether it was an Ambassador to the United Nations, whether it was in his work forging a peace agreement—the Dayton Accords, or whether it was his role now as Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He would come to Capitol Hill bringing his tremendous and brilliant mind, his great intellect, his boundless energy, and his sense of humor. He had a tenacity about him that was unsurpassed. His determination was palpable—you could see it in the air. When he addressed an issue, you knew a solution would be found. And he indeed worked very, very hard in all that he did, but he also brought, as I say, a brilliant, great intellect.

“With the passing of Ambassador Holbrooke, our country has lost a brilliant and respected diplomat, but his life and his legacy will continue to affect our search for peace in the world, resolution of conflict, improving relationships among countries, having a values-based American foreign policy. He was a strong fighter for peace throughout the world and an advocate of American values at the United Nations.

“He will be long remembered for forging the agreement among bitter rivals to end three years of bloody sectarian war in the former Yugoslavia. Now that peace is in the region, it is hard to remember how bitter that fight was and how it went on for a long time. I just want to say this aside, just to tell you the magnitude of the task that he had. When Adolf Hitler was young, that’s how he learned the power of hatred. He said he learned it by watching the Balkans people who had come to Vienna, settled there in some ghettos, and he saw how they interacted among themselves in a very, very bitter way. That gives you a flavor for the attitudes of people in the region.

“But they came to the table in Dayton. Richard Holbrooke understood. He put himself in the shoes of each of the rivals and was able to forge an agreement. It was quite historic. Again, the force of his determination was key to securing peace, restoring hope, and saving lives. It was really monumental. It is thought that his work in the Balkans saved thousands of lives.

“Today, as this resolution states, Congress recognizes him for ‘the monumental contributions he has made to United States national security, humanitarian causes, and peaceful resolutions of international conflict.’

“All of us who have worked with him admired his great intellect and tenacity to resolve conflict. When we got news of his passing, which was shocking to all of us, we immediately flew a flag over the Capitol that evening in his name—how appropriate, this great patriot. How appropriate that there would be a flag flying in his name over the Capitol of the United States. I think that is a tremendous, tremendous tribute.

“I hope it is a comfort to his wife Kati, our dear friend—many of us are personal friends of the Holbrookes—to his children David and Anthony, to their children, and to the many who love him, I hope it is a comfort to them that so many people throughout the world mourn their loss and in our country with a deep, deep sadness and that we are praying for their family at this sad time.”