Menendez Speaks About Congressman Donald Payne On Senate Floor

Menendez Speaks About Congressman Donald Payne On Senate Floor

Senator Menendez Reflects on Life & Legacy of Congressman Donald Payne

WASHINGTON - Earlier today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez spoke on the floor of the Senate about Congressman Donald Payne, his friend and colleague, who passed away this morning. Menendez visited Payne last Saturday in New Jersey.

His remarks as prepared for delivery:

"Today, we mourn the passing of great man, a great leader, and a proud New Jerseyan, Congressman Donald Payne. I am saddened beyond words by his death. Personally, I have lost a close friend, and the people of New Jersey have lost a tireless voice, a true advocate who spent a lifetime crying out for fairness, justice, and fighting for the little guy.

"Wherever there was injustice, intolerance, or suffering...wherever someone was downtrodden by the more powerful and didn't have a fair chance, Donald was there.

"From his earliest days in Congress, he focused on New Jersey, but his influence was profoundly felt around the world. As a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Affairs, and Human Rights Donald followed his passion to restore democracy and human rights in places where the suffering was greatest.

"If you asked him what his greatest accomplishment was, and there were many, he would tell you it was working on global health issues -- co-founding the Malaria Caucus that he launched with First Lady Laura Bush, securing $50 million to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis and $50 billion for HIV AIDS, TB, and Malaria that literally saved whole villages in Sub-Saharan Africa -- because that's the kind of man he was.

"He built a reputation, as Chairman of the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee, for his integrated approach to Africa - combining health, development, economic growth, and improvements for a better quality of life. He once said: 'Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS are diseases that are caused, as well, by poverty, and until we really start dealing with poverty elimination, we are going to continue to have these diseases that follow poverty. We cannot be serious about development without effectively dealing with these three major diseases.'

"...and he did everything he could to live up to those words.

"He could not ignore the fact - as he often pointed out - that 'more than 29 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV/AIDS... that malaria and HIV together kill more than 4 million people each year... that 90 percent of them are in Africa, .that, for millions around the world - particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the global malaria burden is heaviest - the disease is a daily reality, an enduring epidemic that kills millions and impedes the progress of entire nations...'

"He believed in putting an end to the scourge of these diseases and helping broaden our focus in dealing with poverty, disease, and development as a single issue and always said: 'These are global problems that warrant a global collaborative approach'. On World Malaria Day in 2010, he said: 'This is not an endeavor for which we lack the knowledge, skills, or resources to win.'

"And Donald Payne was determined to win. When he put his mind to it, he could do anything... He believed he could change the world, one village at a time -- and he did -- because that's the kind of man he was.

"I served with Donald Payne. I got to know him. I grew to respect his deep and passionate commitment to the institution and the people he served, his belief in the process as it was intended by our founders, to bring all of us together, no matter what our politics or persuasion to make a difference for his District, for New Jersey, for America, and for people around the world.

"Donald considered himself lucky to serve. He saw it as an honor, and he made a difference, because that too is the kind of man he was. Don Payne was a Congressman's Congressman. To me, he was what public service is all about. He embodied the concept of Congress, the assembly of a few good people committed to the betterment of all of us.

"Don's career and accomplishments were exemplary. Before he was elected to Congress he was an educator in the Newark and Passaic Public School Districts. He was the former National President of the YMCA. He became New Jersey's first African-American Congressman, winning election in 1988 overwhelmingly and was serving his12th term this year.

"He was a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and was a steadfast, vocal advocate for early childhood education. He was instrumental in making K-12 education more successful, and for making college more affordable. He worked to cut the cost of Stafford loans in half and increase Pell Grants. He was a tireless champion of working families, always an advocate of increasing the minimum wage, always pushing for workplace fairness and workforce protections.

"Because that's the kind of man Donald Payne was. Through his life and service he was a man of the people, and the people of New Jersey will never forget what he did for Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties.

"In the end, Congressman Payne will be remembered for the dignity and honor with which he represented his District - always putting the interests of the community, the interests of New Jersey, and the interests of humanity first. Because that's the kind of man he was.

"Donald made New Jersey proud and he will forever be missed by all of us who were touched by his warmth and compassion.

"Today, I join my colleagues in mourning the passing of a great man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Don's beloved children and his entire family. He will be missed and may God Bless this great man who gave back much more than he ever received."

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