Honoring U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg

From C-Span Coverage

The country today paid tribute and laid to rest U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Family and friends of the late last veteran of WW II to serve in the U.S. Senate gathered at Park Avenue Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to say goodbye to the 89-year-old senator who died Monday morning.  

They remembered the Senator as a mensch, a proud American public servant, proud Jew from Paterson, New Jersey and the “consummate man in the arena.”

Mourners included 41 senators and six House members, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. Jon Corzine.

Biden, Clinton and Menendez eulogized their Senate colleague.

“He was tenacious in the best sense of the word,” said Menendez. “It came from his deep and abiding belief in always holding on and always fighting on. Frank Lautenberg was a man for his time, one of the greatest-generation. … He was a man from New Jersey, a kid from Paterson.

“He wanted to give something back,” the senator added. “He wanted to serve the people of New Jersey. That’s why the people kept electing him, five times.”

Menendez said Mr. Lautenberg focused his tenacity on fighting powerful interests. The chemical industry didn’t care for his right to know law. The tobacco industry didn’t care for his ban on smoking on commercial airplanes. The gun lobby didn’t care for his advocacy of limiting the size of ammo clips.

Former U.S. Senator Clinton recalled sitting with her fellow senator in the back of the chamber and remembered him saying it wasn’t where you sat, it’s where you stand.

“And there was no doubt where he stood,” Clinton said. “He stood with the victims of AIDS. He stood with veterans. He stood proudly with the working people of New Jersey to pursue the American Dream. He stood with the riders of Amtrak. And most of all he stood with his beloved family.”

Biden said Senator Lautenberg defined a life well lived.

He spoke of a friend and fellow Democrat, one of his closest friends in the Senate.

“This is a lot easier,” The vice president joked of delivering Lautenberg’s eulogy compared to that of the late Republican Senator Strom Thurmond.

Biden met Senator Lautenberg in 1975.

“He always thought practically: What can I do to make it better? It was real simple to Frank. There was a problem, so we should fix it,” Biden said. “I believe the Greek philosopher Heracletes was correct when he said ‘Character is destiny.’ Frank had exceptional character.”

Biden recalled with warmth the senator approaching him to ask him if he should run for re-election in 2014, and Biden said he told Mr. Lautenberg, “I think you’ll win.”

“I think even Christie will vote for you,” the Vice President said, finding Christie in the crowd and pointing him out with a smile. “We have one thing in common, we both love the University of Delaware, we both went there.”

Biden later said he told Mr. Lautenberg he should run again.

Then, as he grew more frail leading up to his announcement that he would not pursue re-election, Senator Lautenberg called Biden and said, “I don’t think I can run. My legs.”

“He desperately wanted to run again,” Biden said. “Not because he wanted to be senator, but because your dad never quit. He never gave up.”  

Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell sang “The Impossible Dream” from “The Man of La Mancha” and “My Way.”

The Senator’s widow, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; the Senator’s daughters Ellen Lautenberg, Nan Lautenberg Morgart and Lisa Lautenberg Birer; his son, Josh Lautenberg; his grandchildren; and his step daughters Danielle Englebardt, Lara Englebardt Metzall paid homage to their beloved patriarch.

Honoring U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg