|Congressional Distinguished Service Award|
At a ceremony held in the Capitolís Statuary Hall, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert introduced the honorees with the following remarks:
The Distinguished Service Award is dedicated to former Members of Congress whose service to the country exemplified the best traditions of the United States House of Representatives.
We are honoring four men today, two Republicans and two Democrats who had widely different political views, but shared a love for their country and for this Congress.
All four are members of the greatest generation, those Americans who lived through the Great Depression, who fought in the Second World War, and who played a critical role in making America the brightest beacon of freedom in the darkest days of the Cold War. . . .
The Distinguished Service Award pays tribute to those who made this House a better place with their service.
John Rhodes, Lou Stokes, Bob Michel, Don Edwards. All of these men shared certain virtues, even as they pursued different political agendas.
Integrity. Humility. Honesty. Steadfastness. None of these men pursued political ambition at the expense of common decency. None sacrificed their souls on the altar of political expediency.
They always respected each otherís differences and opinions. They inspired many with their political insight and their remarkable ability to bridge differences when seeking compromise.
John, Louis, Bob and Don will always be remembered not just as the first recipients of this award, but also as great leaders who truly made a difference in the lives of so many Americans.
We do stand on the shoulders of giants. Thatís how we can make this a better place . . . we can all learn from lessons passed and those heroes that have gone before us.
John Rhodes was introduced by Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who recalled his association with the Congressman and over their years of shared service in the House. Below are excerpts from his remarks.
John J. Rhodes, a man of the House, served in the House as the first Republican elected from Arizona. For thirty years, a Member of the House of Representatives. John J. Rhodes, first and foremost a Republican but beyond that a public servant committed to representing his people and his state well and committed to bringing about change in our national government.
Over the years, John served on several committees in the House: the Education and Labor Committee, the Interior Committee, the Appropriations Committee, in which he served on my Subcommittee on National Security, and on the Rules Committee. During all of that service, he made many a contribution to the work of the House in terms of impacting public policy.
During those early years, he had a direct involvement in developing Republican policy or perhaps an alternative to the then leadership direction that might be a bit more conservative. He was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, and he did a fantastic job helping the leadership to hold our band together to impact the direction of our government.
In 1973, his life changed rapidly for the then-Republican leader, Gerald Ford, was tapped to become our vice president. And by acclamation, John Rhodes was selected to be our leader. His advice and counsel, his stability, his solid commitment to the House made all the difference for the minority of those days.
He was a gentleman who everyone recognized as a person who cared about the House, the institution and public policy first. He reached out to the leadership on the other side of the aisle, seeking compromise, where possible, to impact the best possible of directions.
John J. Rhodes developed an interest in water because of its importance to Arizona. And while serving on the Interior Committee, he literally developed more base knowledge regarding the challenges in this difficult arena than anybody in the entire body.
John J. Rhodes, a public policy specialist, who early on expressed concern about the direction of our country in terms of national security. It was his voice that was heard time and again talking about the challenge and the problem of decreasing defense budgets. It was his voice that suggested we should have an intertwining between foreign policy and national defense that projected itself not for five years, but for ten, twenty, perhaps fifty years, to make certain that America played that leadership role that was necessary to make certain that we were the force for peace and freedom in the world, a voice thatís heard today in many circles, that first echoed in these halls by our leader, John Rhodes.
A fabulous Arizonan who would be with us today if it were not for the fact that he is fighting another battle, a battle with cancer . . . John J. Rhodes, a man to be remembered, a man of the House who indeed served out his destiny, making a difference in strengthening the House and Laying the foundation for the future of this great institution.
Due to Rhodesís health, his son, Jay Rhodes III, himself a former three-term Congressman from Arizona, accepted the award on his fatherís behalf.
Were my Dad able to be here today . . . he would tell you that service in this body is an honor that has been conferred upon and enjoyed by very few in the history of this country, and itís an honor that cannot be replicated and itís an honor that can sometimes barely be described.
But he would tell you that service here made him when he left a better person than he was when he arrived, and I think that each and every one of us whoís had the honor to serve here would concur . . .
If I could use two words to describe my Dad, they would be service and they would be loyalty. Service is self-described in terms of the amount of time that he spent, both in the military and then here in this body, and what he has done since heís left this body.
Loyalty, of course, to his family, tremendous loyalty to his family. Tremendous loyalty to his wife, to my Mother. But loyalty to this institution, because he felt and he feels very strongly that this is democracyís cradle, this is where the work of keeping people free and hopeful starts and sometimes is concluded, hopefully always positively.
And were he here he would tell you that he appreciates this from the bottom of his heart, as I do for him.