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Remembering Juanita Millender-McDonald

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


REMEMBERING JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I want to send condolences to the family of my colleague, Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, and let them know that they are in my heart and in my prayers. I also want to send condolences to the people of the 37th Congressional District of California who placed their faith and trust in the strong, dedicated and elegant Juanita Millender-McDonald.

You have heard from some of my colleagues about the many firsts that Juanita achieved here in the Congress of the United States, including serving as the first African American woman to chair a full committee in the United States House of Representatives. But I just want to take a moment to reflect upon an aspect of her strength that was not readily apparent but clearly on display long before she came to Congress. While some of us have focused on the life that she lived, I want to talk about the Juanita Millender-McDonald who did not believe in self-pity but believed in using what she had to make a difference.

While many of my colleagues will come to this mike and talk about the life that she lived and her service to a grateful Nation, Juanita Millender-McDonald taught us something about character in her transition. No self-pity. Not a single Member of Congress knew that Juanita was ailing and that her ailment was terminal. Juanita did not want to walk around the House of Representatives and have Members of Congress feeling pity for her or feeling sad for her or making special speeches or concessions to her. She wanted all of us to recognize that we live our lives as if life is certain and death is uncertain, when in reality it is death that is certain and life that is uncertain. And, therefore, each of us is under an obligation to do the very best that we can with the time that God has given us on this Earth and in this world.

The Bible talks about serving this present age. ``O may all my powers be engaged to do my Master's will.'' Clearly the type of ailment that ailed our colleague and our close and dear friend, Juanita Millender-McDonald, was not the kind of ailment that strikes one suddenly. She knew about it for quite some time and chose not to share it with Members of Congress. That is a statement about her dignity. It is a statement about her commitment to public service. It is a statement about character. And it is a statement about her strength under extraordinarily life-threatening odds.

Juanita Millender-McDonald was married, she raised five children, and then went to college to launch an impressive and inspiring career at an age when many people start slowing down. She combined higher education with her native Alabama wisdom and she set out to show women and men in life and in death that no matter where you came from, you can go where you want to go. She was a living example of the power of not only keeping your eyes on the prize but putting in the old-fashioned elbow grease to earn it.

No self-pity. She didn't want people looking down on her or feeling bad about her or seeing her physical ailments. No self-pity. She possessed the necessary tough-mindedness combined with the tenderheartedness that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about. She understood, and Dr. King wrote, ``There is little hope for us until we become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of soft-mindedness. A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men and women purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.''

I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve with Juanita Millender-McDonald, and once again I send my condolences to those who loved her. The House and the Nation have lost a dedicated public servant and someone who in life and death has taught us the meaning of character.


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