Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to join the many family and friends who have gathered to extend my very best wishes to a man whose lifetime of accomplishments are a true reflection of what a business and community leader should be--Herbert Kurz--as he celebrates his 84th birthday.
He has dedicated both his professional and personal life to the betterment of his community and to the promotion of equality for all Americans. Herb once told me his faith was in human beings and he has spent a lifetime honoring that faith. His success, both as a businessman and activist, has been based on this mantra and through his good work he has made a real difference in the lives of many.
Chairman and CEO of Presidential Life Insurance Company of Nyack, New York, Herb has combined a shrewd business sense and responsible business conscience to make his business successful and achieve national renown. Honored at the White House Conference on Corporate Citizenship in 1996, Presidential Life has long been known for its commitment to hiring both women and minorities. When he started his business forty years ago, Herb made it a practice to give the first chance at a position to a qualified minority person. In a time when women and minorities had difficulty in securing a place in the business world, Herb opened the doors of opportunity to hundreds--a practice which he continues today.
In addition to his role in building a business that is open-minded in its employment and conservative in its protection of its shareholders investments, Herb's true passion has been as a community leader and social activist.
It is a passion that began in his teenage years when he helped organize a union of hotel and restaurant workers in the Catskills and was re-invigorated upon his return from his service in the United States Air Force during World War II when a very personal experience changed his life.
Herb's uncle, Frederic Ewen, was a popular professor of English at Brooklyn College. Professor Ewen's commitment to the freedom of thought, as well as his political activism during the 1930s, led to his becoming a victim of the academic witch-hunts of the McCarthy Era. When he refused to cooperate with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1952, Professor Ewen was forced to resign his position and was subsequently blacklisted. It was his uncle's tragic experience that led Herb to become one of our nation's leading philanthropists in support of civil liberties. In fact, just four years ago, he established the Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Collection at New York University. The collection, the first of its kind in the United States, focuses on the rights of teachers and research workers to investigate their subjects of expertise without fear of reprimand or dismissal and the right to provide students and the entire academic community with knowledge and information pertaining to any controversial social, economic, or political issue without interference or penalty.
Herb has spent over half his life making a difference in the lives of others. Whether supporting the arts, speaking out against bigotry, enhancing a community hospital for the entire community, or channeling his anger at government corruption into electoral action, Herb's compassion and leadership have left an indelible mark on his community and our nation. For his endless contributions and uncompromising spirit, I am proud to stand today to join his wife, Edythe; his children, Leonard and Ellen; his grandchildren Tommy and Sophie, family and friends to pay tribute to my dear friend, Herbert Kurz. Happy 84th birthday!
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