Hoyer Remarks at Grand Opening of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) gave remarks this morning at the grand opening of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

“My name is Steny Hoyer, I’m [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton’s helper, a title of which I am very proud to have. [Mayor] Bowser, [Councilmen] Charles Allen and [Trayon] White, thank you for your work. The Frederick Douglass family, I've been honored greatly to have representatives and our leader of the Douglass family, the great, great, great, great - and Frederick Douglass would have said after he heard that speech - he's not great because he's a long number of descendants, he’s great because he's great. You are a great, grandson. Ambassador [Daniel] Mulhall, thank you for being here to honor Frederick Douglass, who was so honored to be welcomed in Ireland so many years ago. Reverend [William] Lamar, I thought your prayer was an excellent history and an excellent prayer.

“Ken[neth B. Morris Jr.], I enjoyed your visit. And as I've told you, I have all Marylanders save one pictured in my conference room. Notwithstanding what [Mayor] Bowser is trying to appropriate to the District of Columbia, [Frederick Douglass] was born in Maryland. In Talbot County. Born a slave. Born, essentially, what was perceived as a chattel to be sold. Bartered away.

“He would say, we've come a long way, and one of the reasons we've come a long way was Frederick Douglass was one of the great leaders in that road that we traveled. And I think that if he were here, he would have said, we're still facing the rising sun, and the new day begun, and urge us to march on until victory is won. Victory has not been won but this bridge is a symbol of progress. I call Metro the ties that bind our region together. This is a bridge that ties us together. Yes, it ties us to the Fifth District and the Eighth Ward and Seven[th] tangentially, but it ties Frederick Douglass’ state of birth with his state of choice.

“And so, lest you believe that I just did this out of the goodness of my heart, because I love [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton – that fact is true – but, I want to tell you, I'm a politician, and I have about 50,000 constituents who come over that bridge every day. So, Kenneth, I want to take care of them. And I want all of you to say: ‘yes, Hoyer played a role,’ and he was thinking of all of you over there, making sure you can safely and quickly to the District of Columbia to spend your money which [Mayor Bowser] urged me to make sure is happening.

“I want to mention somebody else who's not here, but [Congresswoman] Eleanor [Holmes Norton] played a critical role, I know with me and I know with you. His name is Anthony, last name is Williams. He was the [DC] Mayor from 1999 to 2007. [Congresswoman] Eleanor [Holmes Norton] and I got most of that money during that period of time, not all of it, but most of that money during that period of time. We started small with $400,000 or $500,000, then some millions of dollars to do planning and getting ready. You were talking about how much has to be done in acquisition.

“And the Congress knew it was its responsibility to make sure that that bridge, which was an aging bridge, built in 1950 - the first time I crossed it, by the way, was 1955 - that's amazing In light of the fact I'm 50 years of age. This is a joint project of the leaders of the District of Columbia – Mayor Anthony [Williams] and the subsequent mayors like Mayor Gray, who were focused on making sure that the city was united, not only virtually but physically, and that's what this bridge says to all of us. It is a work of art. Many, many years ago [Congresswoman] Eleanor [Holmes Norton] and I had the opportunity to see some of the alternatives that could have been built here. I think what has been built here is a work of beauty.

“And as you look up, you soar in that archway to the State of Douglas Commonwealth. I have the rest of [my] speech here that I'm not going to give but I was honored to participate with [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes [Norton]. I want all of you to understand as well that [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton does not have a vote in the Congress of the United States and got this done anyway.

“[Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton is a force of nature on behalf of the State of Douglass Commonwealth. [Frederick Douglass’], by the way, mother was extraordinary prescient; as the Reverend said, because one of his four names was Washington. So it was not by mistake that he moved here. It was by choice. Yes, he knew the federal government was here, and yes, he played a critical role in the Emancipation Proclamation, as we all know, but in so many other steps towards freedom.

“As he faced his rising sun, knowing that victory had not been won, but he, as John Lewis -  the only non-Marylander who has a portrait  in my conference room - who was my dear, dear friend - Frederick Douglass [and] John Lewis kept their eye on the prize. And that eye of all of you still needs to be on the prize. God love. Thank you.”

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