(House of Representatives - April 17, 2013)

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[Page H2071]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                        HONORING MAUDELLE SHIREK

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from 
California (Ms. Lee) for 5 minutes.
  Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Speaker, let me first send my thoughts and 
prayers to the city of Boston, the families and friends of all of those 
touched by Monday's horrific tragedy. Incredible strength was in full 
display in the streets of Boston when untold numbers of people--the 
police, firefighters, volunteers, runners, and bystanders--ran towards 
the explosions to try to help in any way they could without regard for 
their own safety.
  As we learn the details of this attack, let us remember that what 
makes us strong as a Nation is the tremendous care we have for our 
fellow Americans, especially during the hardest times. This is a lesson 
that I learned deeply from my friend and mentor, Maudelle Shirek. 
Maudelle died last week at the age of 101. She would have been 102 June 
18. My heart and my prayers go out to her friends and family.

                              {time}  1020

  Maudelle was truly the ``godmother of East Bay progressive 
politics.'' The former city of Berkeley vice mayor and eight-term 
council member was born and raised in Jefferson, Arkansas. As the 
granddaughter of slaves, she was passionate about justice and civil 
  After moving to Berkeley in the 1940s, she became active in the 
antiwar movement, fought on behalf of unions, advocated for HIV and 
AIDS awareness, care, and treatment, and helped organize the Free 
Mandela Movement. She was also the first elected official in the United 
States to advocate for needle exchange programs.
  During her tenure as a Berkeley elected official, she was 
instrumental in creating multiple city commissions, including the 
Berkeley Commission on Labor. When she retired, mind you, at 92 years 
of age, she was the oldest elected official in California at that time. 
In 2007, the Berkeley City Council renamed city hall in her honor.
  She not only urged me to get involved in politics, but also inspired 
my predecessor, Congressman Ron Dellums, to run for Congress. Her 
understanding of the importance of investing in people won the solid 
support of voters in her district and across the country.
  I met Maudelle in the early seventies while I was a student at Mills 
College. She widened my perspective on global politics during our 
travels around the world. She reinforced the idea that we are all part 
of a global family and what happens here in the United States affects 
our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and vice versa. 
Maudelle was a personal friend, mentor, and confidante.
  Maudelle actually was a health aficionado. She was committed to 
educating seniors and the entire community on the benefits of healthy 
living. She loved shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, and you 
would often find her cooking nutritious meals at the West Berkeley 
Senior Center.
  We loved to walk Lake Merritt and the Berkeley Marina together, where 
she talked to me about acupuncture and natural remedies like cayenne 
pepper and warm water for colds and the importance of exercise.
  Maudelle was a woman of great faith. During the seventies, we enjoyed 
attending the Church for Tomorrow, which formerly was the Church for 
Today. We went there together, and this is where I realized that her 
passion for service and justice was driven by her commitment to what 
she called doing the Lord's work on this Earth.
  She was a woman who understood that she had to have a comprehensive 
agenda. It just couldn't be a single issue like health care or seniors 
or peace and justice, but it had to be about being committed to 
comprehensive and positive changes that seek to improve the lives of 
all Americans.
  Maudelle worked at the Berkeley Co-Op Credit Union. She engaged all 
of us, in the seventies, mind you, in financial literacy, and urged me, 
as a young single student to buy a house because she reminded me over 
and over again that one's equity in one's home was the primary path to 
the middle class, and that that was the main way that I could get the 
resources to take care of my kids and send them to school, a lesson we 
should teach our own children today.
  Several years ago, I tried to name the Berkeley Post Office after 
Maudelle. While this body has a tradition of supporting post office 
bills in a bipartisan way, Congressman Steve King from Iowa came to 
this floor and tried to tarnish her character. He brought groundless 
accusations, and this body voted against--mind you, against--naming the 
post office in my district after this great icon. I hope one day, in 
her memory, Representative King will apologize to Maudelle and her 
family and the city of Berkeley for such an unfair and unwarranted 
attack. She was deeply hurt by it, but kept her head high and lived to 
see the Berkeley City Hall named after her.
  Maudelle refused to accept arbitrary limitations. That's one of the 
best things we all respected about her. Maudelle is one of the best 
examples of how one person can make a difference. She was a fearless 
and inspirational woman who tirelessly fought to make this world a fair 
and just place. She spoke for the voiceless and was such a staunch 
defender of our basic civil rights.
  I believe, like many, that Maudelle's legacy of over 70 years of 
service to Berkeley, the East Bay, the Nation, and the world will 
inspire many to speak for the voiceless and to stand up for justice, 
both here in America and around the globe. I will deeply miss her wise 
counsel, love, and support.