|More than fifteen hundred friends, colleagues, and neighbors gathered
with Carl Albert's family in McAlester, Oklahoma on February 9, 2000 to
celebrate his life, recall the qualities and accomplishments that ensure
his place in American history, and bid him farewell. Here are excerpts
from those eulogies.
We all feel an empty place in our souls today. In losing Carl Albert we have, in a way, lost a piece of ourselves. We're like a tribe that's lost its chief or its wise elder. . .
He realized very early how fortunate we are to live in a place where we care about each other. . . Carl's life and experience is, in a way, a metaphor of that essential ingredient in what it means to be an Oklahoman. . . Carl Albert often said to me, "None of us can ever be what we possibly could be through hard work and ability alone. We need each other."
He never forgot the doors of opportunity that other people had opened for him, and he vowed that he would open doors of opportunity for those that would come after him. . . He leaves that lesson for us. When he was asked about the most important piece of legislation with which he had been involved, he listed civil rights legislation and education bills that provided funds for those who otherwise could not have gone on with higher education. . .
We come together today to take a vow to Carl Albert: We will pass on
your values to our children and our grandchildren. We will tell them stories
about your life. We will keep alive your values now and forever.
I worked for Mr. Speaker the entire time I was in law school - and what a deal that was for an Oklahoman who was contemplating a career in public service . . . If anyone that I knew on this earth bloomed where they were planted, it was Carl Bert Albert. The Speaker never got caught up in the seduction of politics. . . He viewed public service as a sacred responsibility entrusted to him by the voters, and he truly believed himself to be a steward of the people. He labored and served with diligence. . . He believed with passion that every opportunity was an obligation, and every possession was a duty.
He was one person I knew who truly appreciated the differences in cultures
and in races and in ethnicity. . . I think that Mr. Albert, probably because
of his own roots and his culture, this coal miner's son, really understood
and recognized the soul and the spirit of America's working people. He
believed diversity in the workplace just made good sense, even before it
was required by the law or even politically correct to do so. . . In the
words of my Negro National Anthem, he was "true to his God." He was "true
to his native land." The Little Giant from Little Dixie has truly earned
his place in the annals of history.
I am happy and honored to pay tribute to a friend, a former colleague, a really great Oklahoman, and, I think, a great national leader. . . Carl Albert was loved by all, respected by all, Democrats and Republicans, because he was a true leader. Carl Albert was always, always proud of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma was always, always proud of Carl Albert. He excelled in everything he did. He was helping to run the House of Representatives through a very exciting but also turbulent time. . . I can't help but think that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people where he directly had a positive impact on their lives. . .
I spoke with President Ford yesterday and he told me, "Carl was a very good friend of mine. I admired him, and I treasured his friendship. . . You know, Carl Albert recommended to President Nixon that I be selected as vice president." He helped guide our nation and gave us mature, intelligent, respectful political leadership. . . Carl Albert was the calm, steady hand.
In the Bible, Jesus said in Matthew, "No greater gift a man has than
that he lay down his life for his friends." I used to think of that in
terms of maybe a military person or a policeman who gave their life in
public service and in the cause of freedom. But I look at it now and I
see it's people like Carl Albert who, after he retired from Congress, was
still speaking to students, challenging them by saying, "You can be anything
you want to be." Carl Albert laid down his life for his friends, for his
country, for the state of Oklahoma. Carl Albert always loved Oklahoma,
and Oklahoma will always love Carl Albert.
I didn't know Carl Albert, but when he was Speaker of the House, I was a school teacher out in the cornfields of Illinois. I taught about Carl Albert, and I taught about the Constitution that he believed in and loved.
It was a perplexing time, but when you look at Carl Albert's life, he was certainly a man of paradoxes. . . It was in his intellectual capacity to understand that change was coming, that we needed to foresee the vision and be ready for the future. He created steering committees. Before that, it was the Ways and Means Committee that made all the choices. . . He opened up the committee hearings so people could come in and listen. He put in place the Budget Act, so that you can have the budget and appropriation bills and tax bills that are going to be debated before Congress. He did committee reforms. Before, it was the old seniority system. In his tenure he brought brighter and more capable people to take over control of many of those committees. In the times before Carl Albert, we had head counts, and we didn't really have roll counts. . . Carl Albert said we're going to have roll call counts so people can be accountable for what they did in Congress. When you stop to think about it, these were real changes, a real revolution. A person of conscience, a person of huge intellectual capacity had the ability to do this and say that this is a better way to go, this transforms how the government works, yet within the framework of the Constitution that he loved, that he studied. . .
Speaker Albert's leadership and service was not appreciated just by
the people of the Third Congressional District here in Oklahoma. It was
appreciated by the entire nation. . . It's been said that Speaker Albert
was the Little Giant from Little Dixie. Newton wrote, "I have been given
this gift, I can see further, and I can do more things because I have stood
on the shoulders of giants." Certainly this nation today will take time
out and remember Carl Albert because this nation has been able to do more
and do great things because we stand on the shoulders of giants like Carl
We are all here today to honor the life and the service of a great man who was small in stature but very, very large of heart, in mind, and in service to the people of Oklahoma and the people of the United States. . .
He was a leader for change in a time of great change in our country. He brought about changes in the way Congress worked and operated. . . Some of those ideas came from younger members who had come to the Congress, but he was the kind of leader that could bring new ideas to older members and get them to accept those changes, live with them, and make them work. That's a test of leadership, and Carl Albert passed that test with flying colors. . .
He was a leader in the House in a time of remarkable legislative change in the country. Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 - we think of these pieces of legislation as accepted and popular parts of our legislative achievement, but it's useful to remember that when he was leading to put these legislative pieces into place, they were highly controversial and untested and unaccepted by many members of our society. That's a test of leadership, and Speaker Carl Albert passed that test with flying colors.
Speaker Albert, in a long line of leaders in our country, kept going in a very difficult time this longest-running experiment in democracy in the history of the world. Make no mistake about it, politics is always a substitute for violence. . . Think of the time when Carl Albert was Speaker - the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, impeachment - in all of these instances, because of his human capacity, he was able to work with his adversaries, work with people who disagreed with him, work with people of all walks of life and all experiences to bring about a resolution to the conflict.
Carl Albert - a farmer, a student, a scholar, a soldier, a member of
the Congress, Speaker of the House - by his human example, he showed us
how democracy and human respect work. The best way we celebrate his life
and his service is to try to follow his example of fighting hard for our
beliefs, but loving our neighbors, respecting our adversaries, and resolving
conflict peacefully and with honor.
I knew Carl Albert all my life, although I never met him until he ran for office. His father and my father worked in the mines together, and coal miners always brag on their families. . . and we were all proud of Carl Albert long before he ever ran for Congress. Today we're all here because we've lost something important that we want to acknowledge. Many of us have lost our best friend. All of us in this area have lost our best neighbor. And democracies all over the world have lost their best supporter. . .
Where public issues were involved, Carl Albert spoke with a clarity of conviction few had the courage to match. He told an entire generation that there was room for intelligence and idealism in public service . . . that each of us might share in the passion of the age - that was his lesson to us. It runs like a vein of light through the dark history of the race. It says that man is more than the sum of his needs and his fears. It ennobles those who look beyond their own interests to great principles. It acclaims not wealth and power, but the charity of the spirit and the heart. And that's what he wanted for his people, not only of McAlester, and not only of Oklahoma, not only of America. He believed that's what the people all over the world deserved and needed. . .
One of our purposes in being here today is to show those dear to the
Speaker - his family - that their deep sense of loss and bereavement is
shared by us all. By showing our own sense of loss and fond remembrance,
we can help further the sense of a life well-lived, as time on earth well
spent, with a heritage of lasting meaning. . . Carl Albert's legacy is
something that all who aspire to public service should emulate. . . Thank
you, Mr. Speaker, and wish Godspeed to your family, and may America always
aspire to your ideals.
Carl Albert's shadow fell from the heartland of Oklahoma to the Arkansas and Texas borders, and his shadow reached across this country from Washington, D.C. to the Pacific Ocean. His shadow reached from the boundaries of Canada to the boundaries of Mexico. His shadow reached around the world. A five-foot-four he was a giant. Where did it all begin? In 1914, Congressman Charlie Carter was visiting the district, rode in a horse and buggy from McAlester out into the country on a two-rut road to a two-room white framed schoolhouse called Bug Tussle. Lottie Ross, the teacher, introduced the congressman. And a six-year-old first-grader sat there spellbound and said, "That's what I'm gonna be." Can you imagine that? I don't know whether Lottie Ross could imagine that. But when Carl Albert was inducted as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, although there were hundreds of dignitaries and guests of honor, there was Lottie Ross, his teacher from Bug Tussle.
Congressman Carter had said, "There is no greater responsibility than representing the people." Carl Albert remembered that from six years old until he was 91 and he died, still serving the people. From Bug Tussle, Oklahoma to the world, in the toughest time, he served all people. . . He started in Bug Tussle, he circumnavigated the globe, and he died with his heart in Bug Tussle. What an honor to us that he came home. He never forgot the folks at the fork of the creek. . .
Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg on the battlefield said, "The world will
little note nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget
what they did here." Mr. Speaker, the Little Giant from Little Dixie, some
of the greatest leaders of the world are here today in your honor. The
world will little note nor long remember what is said here, but it will
never forget what you did here. I love Carl Albert.
From my mother, my sister, my kids, the entire family, I want to say thank you to all who here have honored my father and what he has done. . . By anyone's definition, he was a great man. I'm here to tell you that he was a great husband, and a great father, and a great grandfather. Through over 57 years of marriage, Carl and Mary Albert were a team. Through the thick, the thin, the highs, the lows, from Bug Tussle to Washington, D.C., and back to Bug Tussle, love endured. We were blessed by his safety net. No matter what the circumstance, my father was our number one fan. . .
Another way we remember people, and the way we remember the one my kids call Grandpa, is through their passions. My father, as we've heard, did not embrace the hoe, but embraced hobbies of the mind. . . He enjoyed genealogy as he did everything else - as a scholar. From trips to Pennsylvania, Canada, Germany, and the Mormon library, he studied all branches of our family tree and as a result he leaves us three books on the Alberts, the Frantz, and all our relatives.
The competitive spirit and the intellectual prowess that guided him through his political career also made him a superb bridge, chess, and checker player . . . My best memories of these passions include his activities during the famous Fisher-Spassky world-championship chess match. Sitting at the dining room table, armed with his ever-present legal pads, a chess board, and the newspaper accounts of the match, he replayed every move and analyzed the brilliance of a young Bobby Fisher. . .
Finally, you may know of my father's love of the Spanish language and Hispanic people. On many family trips to Mexico or Puerto Rico, he would rise early in the morning (an inveterate early riser), don his comfortable shoes and his open shirt, and venture out into the streets and barrios to be with his people. He could speak Spanish as a native, and he would travel for hours, shaking hands with every vendor, buying soda pop, conversing with folks just because he loved people. . .
So there you have it - a statesman, a great leader, a great dad, and
a great husband. As a final honor to him, beyond the four grandchildren
he was so proud of, I say these words: "A mi padre, yo digo, hasta la
vista, vaya con dios. To my father I say, until we meet again, go with