[Congressional Record: January 22, 1996 (Senate)]
[Page S282]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



 
                         LIFE OF BARBARA JORDAN


Mrs. BOXER. 
Mr. President, as the Nation mourns the loss of Barbara Jordan, I would like to take a few moments to celebrate her life.
  Barbara Jordan became active in politics around the same time as I 
did. John Kennedy was running for President and the winds of change 
were sweeping across a nation and inspiring a young generation of new 
leaders.
  It was different world for women then, one where the doors weren't 
nearly so open as they are today. And make no mistake about it--the 
doors are open wider today for women and for minorities because of the 
path cleared by Barbara Jordan.
  Her start in politics was quite humble. She was a self described 
``stamper and addresser''--meaning literally that she volunteered on 
President Kennedy's campaign licking stamps, addressing envelopes, and 
putting them in the mail. So many women started this way--behind the 
scenes doing the mundane but essential labor of grass-roots politics.
  But Barbara Jordan was not underestimated for long. Her most enduring 
talents--the power of her voice and the strength of her words--were 
quickly discovered and no one tells that story better than she did 
herself:

       I had a law degree but no practice, so I went down to 
     Harris County Democratic Headquarters [in Texas] and asked 
     them what I could do. They put me to work licking stamps and 
     addressing envelopes. One night we went out to a church to 
     enlist voters and the woman who was supposed to speak didn't 
     show up. I volunteered to speak in her place and right after 
     that they took me off licking and addressing.

  They would have been foolish not to.
  If Barbara Jordan is remembered for just one thing, it will be the 
power of her words. Her message united people from vastly different 
walks of life, bringing them together to stand as one and nod their 
heads in unison and say, ``Yes, each one of us can make a difference, 
and together we can make this nation stronger.''
  Where her words traveled, legions followed. And our Nation did change 
for the better as we began to offer opportunity to all our citizens.
  Barbara Jordan broke all kinds of barriers throughout her life. If 
she were an athlete, she would have been a world-class hurdler because 
she spent her whole life leaping over barriers with grace and 
dexterity. She broke records.
  In Texas in 1966 she became the first Africa-American State senator. 
She entered that body with outright denunciations from some of her male 
colleagues, but when she left for Washington, DC, those same men 
endorsed a resolution commending her.
  In 1972, Barbara Jordan and Andrew Young, of Georgia, became the 
first black southerners in Congress since Reconstruction.
  In the U.S. House of Representatives, she quickly rose to prominence 
as a members of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. During 
the crisis, Barbara Jordan became one of our Constitution's greatest 
champions.
  ``My faith in the Constitution is whole,'' she told her colleagues 
and the American people. ``It is complete. It is total. I am not going 
to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, 
the destruction of the Constitution.''
  Whether it be freedom of speech, freedom of choice or equal 
opportunity, we in this Congress are also facing fundamental questions 
about the integrity of our Constitution. It is my hope that our faith 
in that sacred document is as whole and as complete as Barbara 
Jordan's.
  After she left Congress, Barbara Jordan continued to give this Nation 
a lifetime of service--teaching young people in preparation for careers 
in public service. Her chairmanship of the independent U.S. Commission 
on Immigration Reform, which is referred to as the Jordan Commission, 
took on the very difficult issue of fair immigration policy.
  And just as young Barbara Jordan listened to the words of JFK and was 
``bit by the bug'' of politics, so did she go on to inspire another 
generation of young leaders when she took the podium at the 1992 
Democratic Convention. Speaking with an authority and voice that could 
only be Barbara Jordan's, she issued a new challenge to each and every 
one of us to reexamine our relationships with each other and what we 
stand together for as a nation. Above all else, she encouraged us to 
put our principles into action where help was needed most--in the 
hearts of our great cities.
  She said, ``We need to change the decaying inner cities to places 
where hope lives. Can we all get along? I say we answer that question 
with a resounding `yes'.''
  Throughout her life Barbara Jordan was a voice for common ground, for 
the ties that bind. Hers were powerful, healing, uplifting words that 
challenged and inspired women and minorities, indeed all Americans, to 
reach for something higher and to believe in themselves and their own 
ability to change the world and make it a better place.
  Her life was a testament to that idea.
  A nation mourns a great loss, but it is my hope that the spirit of 
Barbara Jordan will live on forever in the many Americans who have been 
touched deeply by her powerful words and exemplary life. I certainly 
have been.