Speaker Ryan Pays Tribute to Leader Robert H. Michel | Speaker.gov

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WASHINGTON—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) today commemorated the life and legacy of former House Republican Leader Robert H. Michel, who passed away last month at the age of 93. The following are his full remarks as prepared for delivery at a memorial service for Leader Michel held in Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol:

“Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to our Old Hall. Today we celebrate the life of The Honorable Robert H. Michel, the distinguished Leader from the State of Illinois. On the day of his passing, it was my sad duty as Speaker to order the flags over the Capitol to be flown at half-staff. At this time, I want to ask the Capitol Police to present one of the flags from that day to the Michel family.

“Bob Michel was a man of simple rituals. He pressed his own shirts. He whistled while he worked. He had time for everyone. Indeed, this is the kind of inclusive program the Leader would enjoy: three Republicans…two Democrats…and Ray LaHood.

“This being a House event, we are about to hear some great stories. I want to start the bidding with two I have heard. One comes from Karen Haas, the Clerk of the House, a longtime aide to the Leader. Karen tells the story of a time she briefed the Leader on the details of a tax provision Bill Archer wanted to pitch. This way, they wouldn’t get bogged down about it on the floor. So they get to the floor, and sure enough, Archer sees the Leader and starts going into it. Well, the Leader proceeds to sit down and he says, ‘oh sure Bill, tell me ALL about it.’ Now Karen is fidgeting in her chair…But the Leader gently taps her, as if to say, this is the job. A leader takes a moment. A leader listens.

“My predecessor, John Boehner, tells a story from his Gang of Seven days.  They were about to drop something big about the House bank. And Boehner, who is just a freshman, goes to the Leader and gives him a headsup. Here John is thinking, well now he’s gonna cut my legs off, he’s never going to speak to me again. And the Leader just nods and says, ‘well, you do what you have to do, and I have to do what I have to do.’ That was it.

“Years later, when I was the rabble rouser causing John the problems, he showed the same decency to me.  And now I know who I have to thank…Bob Michel loved this place—this institution—but he really loved its people. He did not just shape events. He shaped people’s lives, and how they lived, and how they treated others. That is what makes a giant a giant. It is those values they instill in us…those moments that make you say, ‘I’ll never forget that.’

“Bob Michel had a lot of those moments in his good and long life. You wouldn’t know it given how humble and how genial he was. But today I hope he will permit us to speak out of order. So that we can give this great patriot—this man of the House—the due he so richly deserves. Thank you all for being here.”