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Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at the Lying in State of The Honorable Donald Edwin Young

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan and other Members of Congress for the lying in state of Congressman Donald Edwin Young, the Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the U.S. Capitol.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:


Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  As Speaker of the House, it is my solemn, official and personal honor to welcome back to the United States Congress the Dean of the House, Congressman Don Young.  We extend special welcome, as everyone has, to his family. 

Every – every one of us began with family, because that’s where Don’s heart always was: family first.  Don’s beloved wife Anne, with whom he shared a beautiful love and partnership.  His dear children, Dawn and Joni.  Many of his darling grandchildren.  The members of his extended family.  And members of the current and former staff, with whom he was very close. 

Some of you came when we honored Don when he became the longest-serving Member of the House – the longest-serving Republican Member of the House of Representatives.  That was a cause for celebration, even among the Democrats.  And he was so happy and told us so many stories that day.  Little did we know how little time we had left with him.  Thank you, God, for giving us that opportunity and the timing – that he became the longest-serving.  When I got up to speak that day in his honor, he said something characteristic: ‘Be short.’ 


And as Steny knows, he was always saying: ‘Regular order, end the vote.’  He was about time – it was about time for Don for many things.  And how moving it was to hear his Alaskan colleagues, Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan, and our – Leader, Leader McCarthy, speak of Don with respect and admiration.

Today, we gather in Statuary Hall – as the Senator said, appropriate.  Where Abraham Lincoln served – he served right over there, right about, in front of that room that says ‘Lincoln Room.’  And now home to [statues] of many of Americans’ legendary heroes.  Indeed, this is a room rich with history.  So it is fitting that we welcome Don’s historic, patriotic public service – which brought luster to the Congress and to the country. 

As a tank operator in the U.S. Army, Don brought honor and valor to our nation.  So appropriate that this beautiful flag graces his coffin.  And for nearly half a century, Dean Don Young was an institution in the House.  We all know that.  Were it not for COVID, this place would be so packed and jammed – but this is the most the doctor would allow us to do.  But I know many other Members will be visiting to pay their respects shortly.

Because, for nearly half a century, Dean Don Young was an institution in the House: an endearing colleague with gruff demeanor – we all know that – and often a colorful vocabulary.  And a serious legislator – a very serious legislator – always bringing us together to do the People’s work. 

Those of us from California – as the Leader indicated – take pride that Don was a son of the Golden State.  But all who were fortunate enough to know and work with him knew that his heart belonged to the ‘Last Frontier.’

Don was a dogged, determined champion for Alaska in the House.  A senior Member of the Natural Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, he delivered countless investments in the state that will benefit families for generations to come.  And in honor of his late wife Lu, he was an unyielding force for Native children.  And as the Leader said, he named the transportation bill for Lu.

Don was a committed conservative.  Indeed, he was a long – longest-serving Republican in history, in the history of the House, as has been said.  But he was always willing to reach across the aisle, if it meant delivering for Alaska.  Indeed, he took great pride in the photographs of him with ten presidents of both parties who signed his bipartisan bills into law – which proudly covered the walls of his Rayburn Office.  It was always clear that he was passionate about this institution and its unique ability to make a difference for Alaska and for America. 

As Dean of the House, Don cherished his duty to defend the dignity and integrity of this institution: striving to foster a culture of civility, camaraderie and respect.  That he never failed – and he never failed to honor the House’s treasured traditions.  Personally, it was my great honor to be sworn in as Speaker of the House – not once, but twice – by the Dean of the House, Don Young. 

When Don became Dean, he said: ‘I love this body.  I believe in this body.  My heart is in the House.’  As was said, he loved the House, and the House loved him.

Despite political differences, many of us on the other side of the aisle enjoyed close friendships with Don.  Whether it was salmon dinners – how many of you have been to the salmon dinners?  That was a big honor.  And built on our shared reverence for this institution.  Even the liberal lion George Miller, whom Don fought relentlessly on the Natural Resources Committee, grew to love him. 

This morning, I spoke to George on the phone.  He called to send his respects to the family.  And I said: ‘What one word would you use to describe Don Young?’  He said, ‘He was amazing.’  Amazing.  Amazing Grace – Don Young. 

He would bring out the knife every now and then, when the conversation got to a point with George.  But George was used to that, and they – it became sort of a symbol of friendship rather than a weapon.  And as I said, George grew to love him.  Well, I never experienced some of the stories of Don’s knife – he told me about them, but I never saw it.  It became a source of humor between them and some of the rest of us.

While we’re all devastated by this loss – it was a shock to us – his many friends in the House will strive to live up to his towering legacy.

May it be a comfort to Anne – and Anne, that day, that Christmas party when we were together, he said to me: ‘You know, I’ve been a very, very lucky man.  God blessed me not once but twice, with two wonderful wives.’  He loved you so much, and thank you for being there with him every minute, right until the end.

May it be a comfort to you, Anne, to Joni and Dawn and twenty grandchildren that so many in the Congress and the country mourn your loss and are praying for you at this sad time.  Congress and the country are forever grateful to you, to the family, for sharing Don Young with us.  The legendary Don Young.

Again, as George Miller said, ‘He was amazing.’  Appropriately, the family selected Amazing Grace as our tribute to him. 

May Don Young rest in peace.


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