Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
THE INSPIRATION OF THE U.S. CAPITOL, AND ITS LESSONS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
(House of Representatives - December 15, 2000)
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[Pages H12522-H12523] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] THE INSPIRATION OF THE U.S. CAPITOL, AND ITS LESSONS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. McCollum) is recognized for 5 minutes. Mr. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, last evening I looked out upon this Capitol from my office window in the Rayburn Building. The Capitol dome was lighted. It was a cool evening. The flags were flying, and the lights were on the Capitol dome. I paused to look about 10 p.m. because I thought that was going to be my last evening in office as I retire from this United States House of Representatives. I had virtually cleaned out my office. I just sat there for a few minutes, having a very beautiful view of this Capitol. It occurred to me that we often look at the Capitol, but we do not see it. As Members of Congress, we are often in another world in our minds, doing things of the people's work that we should be doing, making decisions and doing all the things we are involved with. Very often we do not get off the train and smell the roses and really look around us. It is difficult to do, living these busy lives that we do. But our Capitol represents that which is the greatest in America. It represents the history of this Nation, the greatest free nation in the history of the world. It represents and symbolizes lots of things. It is a wonderful piece of architecture. Those of us who have had the privilege of taking the architect's tour and taking constituents to the top of the dome know it intimately from that standpoint. But just looking at it from the outside, and looking at its intricate workings under those beautiful lights, makes us in awe of it as a building and a structure, and realizing that structure was conceived years and years ago before we had all of the modern technology we have today. But it is far more than an architectural structure, it is a symbol of this great free Nation. It is, like our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, a part of our heritage. We have this greatest free Nation because we had Founding Fathers with the wisdom to adopt a Constitution and the Bill of rights that protect us from government, that require government to be closest to the people in the States and local communities, where they can, and have a Federal or central government only to do those things of national security and matters which really cannot be done by an individual one of the 50 States. We have also a check and balance system, where the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch of governments work together in harmony to produce outcomes that sometimes, upon their initial appearances, look messy, untidy, and difficult, but they are not. They are actually things that can resolve, because of those mechanisms, great crisis problems in ways that do not involve bloodshed, that do not involve riot in the streets, that simply involve a serious debate and serious consideration; in ways that engage the American public in a democratic fashion. We just witnessed one of those great moments in our history: a presidential election that went on for days after the balloting, in which we had lots of partisan views and personal opinions, and engaged the American people. Some thought that the election should have been resolved sooner; some thought it should have gone on beyond the Supreme Court decision of this past few days. But the reality is that our system worked. The beauty of it is that our Founding Fathers' gift to us has indeed shown forth again in bringing about in a fashion that our republic is proud of the resolution of the issue of who will be the next president of the United States and the next Vice President, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, Dick Cheney. I am honored to have served in this body, to have been a Member over the last 20 years of this House of Representatives; to have been a party to a small piece of history for events that have unfolded here in my time. During that tenure lots of things have happened: We have seen the end of the Cold War. We have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall. We have seen the balancing of the Federal budget. We have seen the advent of the age of the Internet. We have seen vast changes in our lives. [[Page H12523]] But it is the future to which we should turn. It is to the next generation. It is to the children who are in school today that we will look to leadership. I would remind them that there is no finer place to look than in history and on the Constitution, and all that this Capitol represents, and to the structures that were set up by our Founding Fathers. Learn discipline, learn history, study great literature, get a good education, and participate in government. Participate at any level, whether that is running for office oneself, or simply getting out and voting and encouraging others to get out and vote, or working in campaigns. But show that interest. Learn, study, do what others who having gone before you have done, and be interested enough to protect these freedoms, protect our structure, protect the strongest military in the world to keep America safe while we are strong, and to protect these institutions that are valuable, so our children and grandchildren for years to come will be able to have these great freedoms that were given to us. Again, it has been my great privilege to have served the U.S. House of Representatives and the people of this Nation in this office. As I leave tonight and say farewell in my last moment on the House of Representatives floor, I want to thank all that I have served with, both the Members and the staff and those who are here tonight, those who work in the U.S. House, work on the floor of this House, work in the cloakrooms of both parties. We owe a debt of gratitude. I want to thank those people. It has been a great privilege. It will be a great honor to look from the outside as a private citizen and watch the workings of this body, for I know not only what a great institution this is, but what a great institution it will continue to be because of the people who are here, because of the interests served, and because our young people, generation after generation, will continue to revitalize our system of government and make this continue to be the greatest free nation in the history of the world. ____________________