PREPARED REMARKS OF HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR CHRISTINE SARBANES, WIFE OF FORMER SENATOR PAUL SARBANES (D-MD)
ENOCH PRATT FREE LIBRARY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2009
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SPEAKER PELOSI: As Speaker of the House, I come here today to bring condolences from all Members of Congress to our friend and former colleague Paul Sarbanes, and our current colleague John Sarbanes, and his brother Michael and sister Janet, on the loss of their beautiful wife and mother: Christine.
But I also come here today as a member of the D'Alesandro family and with the great admiration our entire family has for Christine Sarbanes.
As the first woman Speaker of the House, I take particular note of the way Paul and Christine met. As many of you know, while they were both studying at Oxford University, Christine was trying to gain admittance for women at the all-male Oxford Union. Whether it was interest in that initiative, or just interest in Christine Dunbar, it was the cause of the advancement of women that brought Christine and Paul together.
A few years later, Christine found herself on new turf - in Baltimore, helping Paul run for the Maryland House of Delegates as his new bride.
Paul won that race - and every race thereafter - with Christine by his side. It brought great pride to the D'Alesandro family that Paul served in the House in a seat once held my father. There, and in the Senate, he and Christine were a team on behalf of Maryland and the entire nation, inspired by their love of country and love of each other.
My brother Tommy has always thought he had a special friendship with Christine. In 1976, when Paul was running for Senate for the first time, he was nervous about his chances for victory. But Tommy not only told him he was going to win, he told him the margin by which he would win.
I've always thought that this was not only encouraging to Christine and Paul, but also impressive when Tommy was right. It is appropriate that we pay tribute to Christine here, at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, as its mission - to educate and inspire - was also her mission. My start in politics was a library commissioner in San Francisco, and I have always felt a bond with Christine because of her love of books and support of libraries.
Christine's introduction to Members of Congress was as a congressional spouse, but she made her own mark in bipartisan congressional meetings.
My colleagues who travelled with the Paul and Christine savor their stories. On these trips, Christine was a magnet - at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everyone angled to sit next to her. They had the best chance at breakfast - because Paul was usually late.
In discussions of serious policy matters, Christine had the confidence to remain silent - and when she did not speak, everyone wanted to know what she thought. But when she did speak, she would slice and dice the views of anyone whose arguments she did not believe were intellectually consistent. It was the view of the people who saw her in these settings that she was a serious liberal.
Everyone agrees, she was beautiful in every way - in her person, her intellect, and her compassion for all children.
As a teacher, Christine loved all children, but none more than her own: Michael, John and Janet. How proud they each made their parents: Michael as a community organizer, John as an elected official, and Janet as a writer and teacher, like her mother. All of them are public servants in their fields, just as their parents are.
On Baltimore Public Radio, I heard it said that 'Christine had the honor of often being addressed often only by her first name - as if there were no other Christine.'
I know that for Paul, Michael, John and Janet, and her six grandchildren, there is no other Christine.
I hope it is a comfort to the Sarbanes family that so many people - across Maryland and across the country - are praying for you and grieving with you in this sad time.