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Public Statements

National Marriage Week

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HARPER. I thank the gentleman for the opportunity to speak on behalf of National Marriage Week. What a special time it is for us. I will also say what an inspiration you and your wife are to my wife and myself on the way that you live that marriage.

As we look and see how our society is today and as we see the prevalence of divorce and the breakdown of the family, I think it's very fitting that we talk for a moment about the importance of marriage and what it means in our lives. While it is not attainable for some family situations or some situations, it should always be our goal to keep that family unit together and to hold that bedrock of our society together.

My experience with marriage came from watching my mom and dad. My dad was a gunner in a B-17 in World War II. He came right after World War II to Columbus Air Force Base, which is in Congressman Nunnelee's district, and met my mother at a dance when she came down from Lackey, Mississippi, outside Aberdeen. From that point forward, my dad decided he would move his allegiance from Oklahoma to the State of Mississippi.

I watched that marriage through my life. While no marriage is always easy or trouble free, they stuck together through thick and thin. I know, for us--my dad, my late father, being a petroleum engineer--we transferred quite often from kindergarten through the 12th grade. I was in 10 different schools in four different States--and we actually spent another summer in a fifth State--but Mississippi was always home. That bond that we had was very special because, as long as Mom and Dad and my brother and I were together, there was that protection, that safety that came from that; and how I watched them as they handled things that came up in their life inspired me.

Then in that last move that we had from the State of California back to Mississippi, I wound up in a high school in the 10th grade with a great friend of mine whose conduct and behavior indirectly led me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior at the end of my 10th grade year. He got me going to his church, and it was there that I spotted this beautiful young lady; but I had to wait until she broke up with this boyfriend, and then I moved in for the kill.

So I started dating my wife Sidney when she was 15 and I was 17. We dated 5 1/2 years before we got married. We would have gotten married sooner but we were afraid to stay by ourselves, so we had to wait just a little while. But we've now been married 32 years. And I can tell you that I can't imagine not being married to Sidney.

As I look and we talk about National Marriage Week, and you look at the joys and the troubles that you go through in life--and for us, part of that was having a son with special needs. Our son Livingston has Fragile X Syndrome, and the difficulty of going through that with him is something I could have never done without that bond of marriage and that strength that came not only from the Lord but from my relationship with my wife. We've been blessed with our son Livingston, what a wonderful son, and our daughter Maggie. And having that family together and them having us together, I think, helps us as we build our society and we move forward.

I want to commend the gentleman from Mississippi for having this event today where we can come and speak on that. And I want you to know that I'm a very smart husband too because I'm giving this speech, wearing the tie that my wife gave me for Valentine's Day last year. So hopefully that will score points.

But I want to say, as we look at this, let's try to encourage people that are going through difficulties in their marriage to stay together, to keep that family together. And this is something that we can build on that will benefit our society.

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