(Extensions of Remarks - September 15, 1998)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1717-E1718]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                      IN MEMORY OF KIRK O'DONNELL


                            HON. TOM LANTOS

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                      Tuesday, September 15, 1998

  Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the memory of 
Kirk O'Donnell, who passed away last week at the age of fifty-two. 
Throughout his three decades in public service, both as an aide to 
Speaker Thomas P. ``Tip'' O'Neill Jr. and Boston Mayor Kevin White and 
as an advisor to some of our nation's most influential officials, Kirk 
served his country with an abundance of dignity and integrity that 
could be matched only by the fullness of his patriotism.
  In sharp contrast to many of today's political ``spin doctors'' who 
nurture cynicism in exchange for votes, Kirk's wisdom rested in his 
ability to communicate his principled desire for a better America, a 
moral society with opportunity for all and poverty for none. His 
contributions toward achieving this end were immeasurable.
  Kirk was also a very dear personal friend, Mr. Speaker. I worked 
closely with him when he served as counselor to Speaker O'Neill, but 
our friendship continued, and even grew warmer, after he left public 
service when Tip O'Neill retired. He was committed to decency and 
fairness, and I had great respect for his compassion for the less 
  Mr. Speaker, Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant wrote an eloquent 
tribute to Kirk O'Donnell that eloquently articulates the outstanding 
character traits that I and so many others admired in him. I submit Mr. 
Oliphant's column to be placed in the Record. I invite my colleagues to 
join me in remembering the life of Kirk O'Donnell and extending our 
heartfelt condolences to his wife of 26 years. Kathryn Holland 
O'Donnell, and his two children, Holly and Brendan.

                [From the Boston Globe, Sept. 10, 1998]

                   He Stood For Politics at Its Best

                          (By Thomas Oliphant)

       Washington.--He was arguably the best mayor Boston never 
     had, among a handful of people who mattered most to the 
     turbulent city of the 1970s.
       No one did more for the House of Representatives over the 
     last generation who was never elected to it; no history of 
     national affairs in the 1980s is complete without his large 
       The last four presidents have known all about his special 
     gifts and felt their impact; the two Democrats (the 
     completely different Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton) had more 
     than one occasion to depend on them big time.
       On an average day he could get your brother a fair shot at 
     the police force, help repair Social Security, broker the 
     biggest tax bill of modern times, keep the Big Dig's cash 
     coming, and still make it home for supper.
       All across the intersections where politics and government 
     meet in the interests of real people, the shock and pain at 
     Kirk O'Donnell's death over the Labor Day weekend is the only 
     recent event to unite Republicans, congressional Democrats, 
     and Clintonites in this season of shame and ugliness.
       You'd think all this emotion concerned a senior statesman 
     passing on after a long lifetime of service, the occasion for 
     a proud-sad moment to celebrate a life lived magnificently.
       But the shock and pain arrived like a rusty blade in the 
     gut because O'Donnell was only 52; he did things in his 30s 
     and 40s that big shots in their 60s never accomplish. But the 
     best was still ahead of him, and the sky was the limit; if 
     the Democrats ever elect another president, a Cabinet post or 
     chief of the White House staff would have been lateral 
     movements for him.
       This is the kind of death that shakes your faith, making it 
     all the more important to reaffirm it. And the fact is this 
     blend of Dorchester and D.C., of Boston Latin and Brown was a 
     walking reaffirmation of faith in the potential of public 
     service, a shining example of the silent majority who don't 
     broker votes for cash, check their principles at the front 
     desk, ignore their families, welsh on their commitments, 
     indulge their whims and their urges, lie, and shirk. His life 
     demonstrates that at the end only two things matter--whether 
     your word's any good and how you treat others.
       Two stories: Kevin Hagen White gets the credit for 
     discovering him in the early years of decentralized 
     innovation and leadership

[[Page E1718]]

     and hope for the racially polarized town. By 1975, the young 
     political junkie who could explain Boston by precinct or 
     by parish was entrusted with White's third-term reelection 
       It was the roughest, ugliest, closest fight in modern 
     Boston times. The people involved, despite all they've done 
     since, still get together to tell the old stories and refight 
     the old shouting matches. The one reputation that was 
     enhanced by the bruising experience was O'Donnell's, for 
     focusing like a laser beam on organizing the White vote and 
     focusing on Joe Timilty's lack of a clear alternative.
       After it was over and he was down in Washington with Tip 
     O'Neill, it was increasingly clear that his former boss had 
     lost his fastball. Again and again, from the shadows of the 
     speaker's rooms in the Capitol, O'Donnell saw to Boston's 
     interests. He would happily recount to me the stories of 
     program formulas rejiggered to benefit the cities, of special 
     items in appropriations bills (worth billions of dollars over 
     time) as long as I understood that if I used his name in 
     public he would rip my lungs out.
       Just for the record, O'Donnell was more than enough of a 
     city lover and urban scholar to know about subway analogies 
     in politics. But he was the guy, in 1981, who called Social 
     Security the third rail of American politics; few lines have 
     been ripped off more. But he did it to make a point--that 
     Ronald Reagan had touched it by reaching beyond his mandate 
     to try to slash future benefits in a partisan initiative. 
     With the help of the worst recession in 60 years, he and 
     Speaker O'Neill pounced on that goof to effectively end the 
     Reagan Revolution.
       But that same skill was then put to use on the speaker's 
     behalf to help broker a bipartisan repair job that has lasted 
     15 years and made the next stage of generational common sense 
     possible. He was to Congress in the 1980s what Jim Baker was 
     to the Reagan White House.
       He was a big guy, with a big voice he rarely used except to 
     laugh. Everyone trusted him. There are tears being shed today 
     in saloons and salons, in boardrooms and in back rooms. Kirk 
     O'Donnell's life demonstrates the power of the haunting 
     challenge made famous by the Kennedys, that all of us can 
     make a difference and that each of us should try.