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Pelosi Remarks at ‘In America: Remember’ Art Exhibit Honoring COVID-19 Victims

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Pelosi visited the “In America: Remember” public art project on the National Mall, a space for national mourning to honor those in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19, created by Washington, D.C.-area artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Suzanne, for your beautiful words, for your great artistry and for your invitation to join you. 

In this celebration of the lives of all of these people, I stand here as Speaker of the House to bring greetings and prayers and our heartbreak of the Congress – and our intention to crush the virus.  With several of my colleagues, Chairs of committees and subcommittees, Chairman Jim Himes of Connecticut, Congressman Paul Tonko of New York, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Congressman Mark Takano – I should be saying Chairman, Chairman, Chairman every time – Chair of the Veterans Committee, Mark Takano, and earlier, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who was here to plant some flags earlier today.  We’re in session, so we are a representation of our Members, so many of whom share this grief, and bring greetings and unity to all of you. 

Being an artist, Suzanne talked about the art being an – open to interpretation.  And she talked about how this could be flag of surrender, or it could be a remembrance and the rest.  But as we look at this work of art and see it fluttering in the breeze, it really is an interpretation of the lives of these people waving to us, to remember.  And that is, of course, the theme of today – ‘In America: Remember.’  Remember – 676,286 and the number is growing as we stand here.  This number has surpassed the number of Americans who died from the Spanish Flu 100 years ago.  That is a tragic record to break, and it isn’t over yet. 

We take so much pride in the work of Doug – Doug, who was acknowledged for joining Suzanne and Samantha and – their daughter who has been a part of this.  We were all together, and well, it seems like yesterday, but it was a year ago.  And it was very cold that day, when we were at the stadium.  There were, like, around a quarter of a million who had died by then.  And it seemed like a hopeless number, that we had to stop.  And here we are 400,000 more today, dangerously close to a 700,000 mark.  We have to rein it in.  We know that. 

‘How Could This Happen in America?’  That’s what it was called, last year.  Today, ‘In America: We Remember.’  The difference between then and now is that President Biden has been determined to crush the virus in every way – a positive, strong leadership working with Congress.  180 million Americans across the nation have been fully vaccinated.  Vaccination rates are once again on the rise in recent weeks, and that is important.  But to defeat the virus for good, we must get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.  And now the vaccinations are available for children.  

Suzanne also talked about unity.  ‘E Pluribus Unum.’  Let us have this visual manifestation of art and life bring us together, express our shared grief and offer our hope for the future. 

As I look on this here, in this particular setting, I’m reminded of another tribute that I was part of 30 years ago, or more, when the AIDS quilt came out to the Mall.  Nothing could be as eloquent as a manifestation of sadness than art.  We all see it, as we do.  But all of us grieve together, are inspired together and renew our pledge: to remember, to remember, and in remembering, to make sure that the number doesn’t grow. 

And again, we look at these flags, and we think of the family – someone missing from the table at dinner, missing from the conversation, in family.  I was reading some of the statements on the flags, one of them to Papa, ‘We miss you.’  Their grandfather.  ‘We miss you.’  Statements of love, which hopefully are a comfort to the family.  But I know that many of these people are people of faith.  And they believe that their message is being received, and receiving that message, that not only our prayers, but the prayers of the departed, will also bring solution to all of this.  

So, again, thank you, Susan.  I want to pay tribute to Craig Ruppert – my, this is so remarkable.  Thank you so much.  This is so much fun.  As always with art, it looks so together, but it takes so much to make it, to make it happen. 

So, again, I want to, on behalf of the Congress of the United States, say thank you to Suzanne, Doug and Samantha and also to Craig and everyone.  There’s so many others who help support, finance, design and spread the word on this beautiful manifestation of humanity in the form of art – to inspire us to always remember and try to limit the number of flags and the next manifestation of loss of life. 

Thank you all for being here.  Thank you, Samantha, I mean, Suzanne, Samantha and Doug and so, Craig.  And I want to thank my colleagues because they’ve worked very hard.  This is a priority for them, for Mr. Himes, Mr. Tonko, Congresswoman Bonamici and Mr. Takano and [Congresswoman] Dingell, but so many others.  COVID, climate – science: let’s embrace it for solutions. 

Thank you all very much.

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