Speech ● Miscellaneous
For Immediate Release: 
February 14, 2019
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered a eulogy this morning for his close friend and the longest serving Member of Congress, Representative John D. Dingell Jr. of Michigan. Below is a video and his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Click here to watch the full remarks.
“There is nothing I can tell you about John Dingell that you don’t already know.

“We know John Dingell, like us, wasn’t perfect.  No one is.  But we know how very, very good he was.  We know that is why he kept getting re-elected to Congress – more than any person in history – to do the people’s work in the people’s House.  And what an extraordinary record he achieved in the almost sixty years he served.  He made a profound difference on behalf of millions. 

“He was fair-minded, but he was tough.  Very tough.

“Many have known his fierce and biting judgment; many too will recall his kind and gentle soul.

“He was intolerant of evil, intolerant of injustice, intolerant of malfeasance and incompetence – and made sure everyone knew it.  At the same time, he was an advocate and fighter for tolerance.

“Like all of you, I saw his great strength, his patriotism, and his extraordinary adoration for the ‘lovely Deborah.’

“Like you, I saw in him a man of both complexity and simplicity.  A man who served so well his country, his family, his state, his community, the House of Representatives, and his colleagues.

“That’s how all of us knew John Dingell.

“When I first arrived in Congress, John had already been there for over a quarter century.  Like many of the freshman at the time, I saw him as larger than life.  He was imposing, intimidating. He was Chairman John Dingell, seemingly unapproachable.

“At the time, it made me think of the old country song by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  It told of a giant of a man who held up the buckling timber in a collapsing mine, allowing all the other miners to escape.  Big John, he was called. 

“John Dingell was, to us freshmen, our very own Big John.  A larger-than-life figure who had raised up the institution of the House as a legislator and as a leader in our party. 

“As the years passed, and I got to know John the man and not only as Big John the Chairman. And, as it turned out, he was approachable.  He was, I discovered – as so many of you did – as tender as he was tenacious.  And he became a dear, dear friend.

“I never stopped looking up to him as a senior colleague.  Even as he became my ‘dear friend John,’ he continued to be Big John to all of us with whom he served. And Big John was a master of the House. 

“On occasion, he would unabashedly use his power as a chairman to cut through the confusion on an issue and impose his will when he believed it to be the morally correct thing to do.  He once gaveled a committee meeting to adjournment right before he was about to lose a vote, declaring: ‘You may have the votes, but I have the gavel!’  And, more often than not, he ultimately got the votes too. 

“John liked and respected every Member with whom he served for having been elected by their neighbors to represent them in the Congress.  That is, at least, until they gave John a reason not to.  

“He never minced words.  He never held back.  Sincere; earnest; determined; courageous; persuasive; principled; indefatigable – at times acerbic, at others gentle and encouraging.

“The love he showed those of us who were his colleagues was often tough love.  He loved us sometimes with soft words and sometimes with sharp elbows – Democrats and Republicans alike.  John handed out barbs as often as his Polish paczki. And how fortunate we were to have both. 

“From the biting letters he wrote to his pointed questioning of witnesses.  From his unyielding advocacy for legislation ahead of its time to his tweets so undeniably of their time.  Deep inside the man we found an immeasurable determination to make the House of Representatives, his state of Michigan, and his beloved America better places. 

“He used his time in the office to do exactly that.  John fundamentally understood what the House of Representatives can be when at its best.  He saw it as an engine by which representatives can transform love of country into tools of justice, security, and opportunity for the people we serve.

“We all know the tools he helped fashion: health care reform; Medicare; the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act; civil rights and voting rights; support for all working families and, in particular, Michigan’s auto workers.  His respect and admiration for working people were manifested in his dedication to the men and women who build our cars and to the United Auto Workers.  He was their steadfast champion. The list of legislation shaped by his hands stretches as long as his unrivaled tenure. 

“Early last week, Debbie called and said that John wasn’t doing so well. So, I got on a plane last Wednesday and flew to Michigan. 

“Debbie greeted me at the door in Dearborn.  She, of course, was the love of John’s life.  Their love affair was an example to all of devotion and support.  John told everyone that his ‘lovely Deborah’ was his strength, his steady hand, and his most important advisor and dearest friend.  And, oh how justifiably proud he was that she was continuing the legendary Dingell service in the Congress.

“I spent two and a half hours with my friend.  John, brought low by age and illness, was still the lion-hearted center of energy and outrage about the wrongs he saw.  His sense of humor, still intact, his concern for the House and for our country was as fervent as ever.  We talked for an hour about what was, what had been, and what should be. 

“He had a deep concern for the future of our country, which he expressed in his ‘Last Words for America.’  In it, he wrote: ‘As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.’

“A little later, Sandy Levin joined John and me as well as Debbie and John Orlando.  Sandy and John reminisced about so many of the crusades pursued by the Dingells, Levins, and so many of their allies.  I was amazed at the sharpness of his memory.  Sandy’s brother, Senator Carl Levin, observed in 2005 that ‘The story of John Dingell is the story of the hopes and dreams of the American people for the past fifty years.’ 

“John Dingell, indeed, was a dreamer.  And, thankfully for us, an extraordinary doer. 

“Before I left, I kissed him on the forehead and told him: ‘I love you, John’ – and I knew I spoke for his colleagues as well.

“He knew the end was nearing.  But even at the threshold of death, he was in command.  He was concerned.  He was ready for the next day, the next tweet, and the next fight. 

“As Debbie said, he was classic John Dingell.  And that is how we will always remember him.

“Our dear and loyal friend, a great American, a great Member of the House, and a very good and decent man – Godspeed, Big John.”