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Public Statements

Mourning the Passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PASCRELL. Thank you, Congressman Smith, for your great service to your State and your country.

Madam Speaker, we've lost a great man. When Senator Lautenberg passed away Monday morning, last Monday, I lost a good friend. The Silk City has produced many great individuals and characters alike, but few, if any, have a life story like that of Frank Lautenberg.

Like me, Frank grew up on the streets of Paterson--literally. Both of us came from families of immigrants who came to Paterson, like pilgrims, like Plymouth Rock. It was Paterson/Plymouth Rock. That's what it was, when you come down to it.

We had the same dreams. Many thousands in our city had the same dream. Through hard work and determination, we learned that you could provide your children with a better life and a successful future. Despite all their dreams for their young son, I don't think that Sam and Molly Lautenberg, Frank's dutiful parents, deceased, ever could have imagined all that Frank would eventually achieve. Only in America.

But then again, Frank never forgot the sacrifices family made for him. He learned what real hard work was from his father, who labored into the silk mills of Paterson to provide for his family. He learned how to persevere from his mother, who raised him in the face of poverty. They lived in four or five different places in Paterson as they moved around.

His dad passed away when his dad was 43 years of age. In the face of poverty, at the age of 19, Frank Lautenberg had to summon all those lessons and more when his father passed away leaving him to support the entire family. He never forgot those hard lessons. They served him well throughout all the journeys of his life.

He spoke about those journeys every time he came before a classroom in Paterson, New Jersey. He visited, revisited, and revisited and brought computers. He brought computers. And, of course, ADP was one of the great corporations in America, formed in a garage in the back of a house in Paterson, New Jersey.

And I say, Madam Speaker, how many people must be kicking themselves for not having invested way back when they thought it was a wild idea, taking care of people's payroll.

It's not easy to grow up on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey. Take it from me personally, Congressman Smith. You have to fight for every inch in order to get ahead.

Frank truly embodied what it means to be a fighter. That's what made him such a successful representative from New Jersey. You've heard the Congressman, Congressman Smith, specify all of the issues that he was involved in; and when he was involved, he was totally immersed in the subject therein to help Americans.

It didn't matter what nationality, what ethnicity, what color. It didn't matter what religion. It mattered that you were a human being in the greatest country in the world. He talked about it often.

When he came back from the service, he talked about it. He served his country in the Second World War.

Regardless of how you feel on issues, you don't take on the gun lobby to ban firearms for domestic violence offenders, you don't take on Big Tobacco to ban smoking on airplanes without getting a few scars in the process.

The thing Frank's opponents didn't realize was that he got his scars long ago, growing up on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey. His roots are exactly what made Frank so successful, first in the Army, then in the private sector, and, finally, in the hallowed Halls of the U.S. Senate.

But despite all that he achieved, he never forgot where he came from. That's the secret. When you forget where you come from, when you forget your roots, when you forget the street you lived on, the guys and the gals that you talked to, your mom and dad, how they sweated it out every day, I mean, when you worked in those silk mills it was no day at the beach, not by any stretch of the imagination.

We, many times, forget our roots, Congressman Smith, and you know that. We forget where we came from. We think we're better. If you're a Congressman, oh, God. He never forgot where he came from. Despite all that, what he achieved, he knew his roots.

One of the proudest moments of my career was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him when we were able to successfully pass legislation to finally establish the Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson, New Jersey. It's our Yellowstone. It's our Grand Canyon. It doesn't take up nearly the amount of space, but it meant so much to not only Patersonians, but people in that area, Paterson, the third largest city, first industrial city.

Alexander Hamilton knew what he was doing. Frank Lautenberg knew what he was doing.

We'd been pushing many, many years for Federal recognition. In fact, I still have a picture hanging in my office of Senator Lautenberg and me touring the Great Falls when I was the mayor of that city. In the true Paterson spirit, despite opposition from the Park Service--we weren't getting off to a good start--and opponents in Congress who never wanted to see an urban national park, we never stopped fighting.

And just a few years ago, we finally reached our dream to get the Great Falls the Federal designation it deserves. Members of both sides of the aisle came together. And on that day, when Secretary Salazar was there, Democrats and Republicans joined together where industry started in this great Nation.

The park is now in the first stages of its development, and I believe one day it will be a crown jewel in the National Park System, thanks in no small part to our great Senator. It's a fitting legacy for him to leave to the city he loved so much.

These last few months, with his health getting weaker, necessitating long absences from the Senate, Frank never lost his passion for the issues he had spent his entire life defending. Despite his health, he came to Washington to cast a critical vote on a bill to expand background checks. No one was going to stop Frank Lautenberg from fighting to make this world a better place. Even the limitations of his own body couldn't hold him back.

I join my friends and neighbors in Paterson, where he used to cut his hair, Pasadena Pete's, where he used to stop at the markets, and he'd stop in to a coffee shop downtown. We mourn this tremendous loss of one of our favorite sons, one of our patriots.

He was a person first. He was a legislator second. He was the same man on the street that he was on the Senate floor. You always got the genuine article.

Frank Lautenberg was not a spectator to life. Frank Lautenberg was a leader, a loving husband, a loving father, a trusted friend, and a true Patersonian.


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