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Honoring The Life Of Congressman Donald Payne

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono

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Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity today to commemorate the remarkable life of Congressman Donald Payne.

I am deeply saddened that my friend Don is no longer with us. Don was a special man who touched the lives of so many. He truly saw his life's work as a way to serve others and make the world a better and more just place. His compassion for all will be sorely missed.

Don was my colleague in the Education and the Workforce Committee, and I saw firsthand the passion he brought on behalf of America's children. He was a constant advocate for early education, recognizing that all children deserve a solid educational foundation regardless of income or circumstances. He recognized the power of education to further civil rights, and he strongly supported Historically Black Colleges and Native Hawaiian education. More than anything, Don saw education as a tool to create a more just and civil world.

Don's compassion extended to those suffering abroad. He worked tirelessly to promote democracy around the world, and I was fortunate to travel with Don to Haiti as part of the House Democracy Assistance Partnership, of which he was a founding member. Our bipartisan team greatly appreciated Don's leadership and experience, and his presence helped gain the U.S. delegation the respect of our Haitian colleagues.

But Don's largest overseas focus was on Africa, where he traveled to dangerous conflict areas in Somalia and Darfur. Don refused to stand by and watch the suffering of innocent African families and children. As noted by Steve Heyes, President of the Corporate Council on Africa:

Africa mourns today for it has lost its greatest advocate in America with the passing of U.S. Congressman Don Payne, and such an advocate with so much experience and passion will not rise again soon. So, too, did the poor and downtrodden lose one of the few such Congressman who still cares about their fate and understood their lives so well.

Madam Speaker, I know that Donald Payne has left a lasting impact on the world. We can all start to live up to his example by living our lives with empathy and compassion. While he will be sorely missed, he will never be forgotten. I join with my colleagues and with all of his friends and colleagues in giving thanks for Congressman Donald Payne's life of service.

My thoughts and prayers are with Don's family and friends. May he rest in peace.