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Public Statements

Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, I come before this august body with a very heavy heart this afternoon. Last Friday night, just a few blocks from my home in Chicago, a terrible act of violence claimed the life of a young police officer. Thomas Wortham IV was a distinguished Chicago police officer. He was off duty on Wednesday night, so he went to visit his parents in a nice neighborhood called Chatham--in which I live only 2 1/2 blocks away--to show them his new motorcycle.

Officer Wortham was used to putting his life on the line. In addition to being one of Chicago's finest, he recently served two tours in Iraq. He devoted himself to his community and to his country. He exhibited the same courage, valor, and selfless dedication wherever he went.

Thomas Wortham was a true American hero. He was the kind of person who keeps us safe and makes it possible for the rest of us to go about our lives free from fear; the kind of person who serves as an example to those around him and inspires others to give back.

But last Wednesday night, as he sat on his brandnew motorcycle outside of his parents' home, this remarkable young man was violently taken from us. After two tours in Iraq and endless hours patrolling the mean streets, Officer Wortham was struck down practically in his own backyard. Several young men tried to rob him, and he was shot in the struggle. His father, who is also a military veteran and retired police sergeant, heroically rushed to his defense and returned fire on those who attacked his son. But it was too late. Gun violence had already claimed Officer Wortham's life.

For all his heroism, for all the good he did for his community and his country, in the end Thomas Wortham IV was tragically killed where he should have been perfectly safe. There is no justice in this; there is no silver lining. This is just major outrage. It was a despicable, senseless act committed by dangerous people, all of whom must suffer the full consequences of the law.

Today, I ask my colleagues to join me in mourning Thomas Wortham IV, who was taken from us far before his time. Let us remember his selfless devotion to his community and to his country. Let us celebrate his heroism and honor his memory by living out his values in our daily lives.

I extend my deepest condolences to his family, whose pain far exceeds even the deep sense of loss felt by others in the Chicago community. This Nation stands with them today, just as their son stood with us in the sands of Iraq and the streets of Chicago.

As we lay this fallen hero to rest, let us do more than remember. Let us take action. This tragic murder reminds us of the gun violence pandemic that holds cities and towns across America in a vice grip. It can strike anywhere at any time, and it is tearing apart families, communities, and our own sense of security.

It is time to reclaim our future. It is time to stop the shooting and start to invest in education, violence prevention, and afterschool programs so we can keep guns out of the hands of criminals and keep kids from turning down the wrong path in the first place. This means creating jobs and cracking down on those who should not be able to buy guns. It means challenging our young people to aspire to a better life and giving them the tools to make the right choices so they do not end up on the road to violence.

This is not a political issue or a matter of dollars and cents. This is about the place where we live, work, and go to church, the places where our children play and go to school. Officer Wortham lived and died for these folks, for his friends and his neighbors and his countrymen. Even in a moment of tragedy, as we grieve this devastating loss, I believe we must summon the courage to walk in this young man's footsteps, to take up his cause as our own and lift up his noble example.

As I advised the parents when I met with them, let us take back our streets, our schools, our churches, and our children's future. Where Thomas Wortham IV fell, let us all rise in his place to confront this challenge and end the scourge of gun violence once and for all. Let us do that.

His family is also in mourning because retired Sergeant Wortham killed one of the offenders and shot the second one, who is now in critical condition in the hospital. Thank goodness for the Chicago Police Department and good detective work because the other two offenders are now in custody.

What we must do is stand and be counted when it comes to guns and
young people with guns in their hands and no jobs and no future and no hope. That is what we experience. In this legislation that is before this body, there is money that has to be provided for summer jobs for our youth.

Patrolman Wortham would not be the last person to expire through gun violence on our streets. I ask my colleagues to look at what we are doing and what we have to do and make sure we do our part to provide the resources and opportunity for our youth in these urban areas to have some hope, some direction, something on which to rely.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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