House honors Payne


The House of Representatives honored U.S. Rep. Donald Payne today with a ceremony in the Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall.  

Among the speakers honoring Payne, who died last month after battling cancer, were Speaker of the House John Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Sen. Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, the dean of the New Jersey delegation.

Payne’s son, Donald Payne Jr. and other family members were on hand to remember the fallen Congressman.

Below are Smith’s remarks.

In the ensuing weeks since Don Payne’s untimely passing, I -along with all who knew and respected him- keep expecting to hear his gentle voice admonishing us to care more and to do more for those trapped in poverty or suffering from devastating disease. 

Don Payne was an extraordinary man who dedicated his entire life to public service; a man who made a significant difference in the lives of many-in his constituency, in New Jersey, in the nation and in the world. 

Don Payne worked across party lines to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to mitigate the loss of life and morbidity from tuberculosis and malaria on the subcontinent of Africa.

He co-sponsored the Sudan Peace Act and worked tirelessly to end the genocides in both South Sudan and Darfur.

I know firsthand how much he truly cared and how hard he worked for peace and reconciliation in war-ravaged nations. I served as Ranking Member of the Africa Subcommittee when he chaired it, and more recently until his passing, he served as mine. In our subcommittee, he never shied away from asking the tough question, but always did so in a way that demonstrated his earnest desire to find durable solutions to vexing and seemingly insurmountable problems.

He was a joy to work with.

At his funeral, dozens of family members, friends and political leaders extolled Don Payne’s innate goodness and accomplishments. The outpouring was, in a word, overwhelming.

President Clinton said, “Don Payne believed that peace was better than war… Better to reconcile than to resent.” Governor Christie said that, “As we celebrate his life today and as we say goodbye, we thank him for his gentle grace.”  His niece, Lauren said, “I can go to any part of the world and he would be known there….I think it’s wonderful, just amazing.”

And his son, Don Jr., reminded everyone: “Just think of all the things he did for us…without ever asking for anything back.”

Don Payne’s ability to care and do for others while expecting nothing whatsoever in return is indeed a rare and precious virtue. His example of life-long selfless generosity inspires us all to be doers of good deeds without any thought of recognition or reward.

The House has lost a distinguished friend and colleague.

He is missed.

House honors Payne