President Obama on Tuesday honored former Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., at a memorial service in the Capitol, praising his “ability to find common ground with his colleagues across the aisle.”
Obama said that lawmakers today could learn from the example set by Foley, a 30-year veteran of the House, who died Oct. 18 at the age of 84.
“At a time when our political system can seem more polarized and more divided than ever before, it can be tempting to see the possibility of bipartisan progress as a thing of the past,” said Obama.
“It is tempting to wonder if we still have room for leaders like Tom,” the president continued. “I believe we have to find our way back there. Now more than ever America needs public servants who are willing to place problem solving ahead of politics."
Foley served as speaker from 1989 to 1995, but was unseated in the 1994 “Republican Revolution.” His defeat marked the first time a speaker had lost a reelection bid since the Civil War.
House and Senate leaders from both parties praised Foley at the memorial service as a legislator who commanded the respect and admiration of both Democrats and Republicans.
Former President Bill Clinton, who tapped the former speaker to serve as his ambassador to Japan, also spoke at the service.
Obama said that while he did not know Foley personally, he “admired him from afar.”
“Like millions of Americans, I benefit from his legacy,” said Obama touting many of the one-time Washington lawmaker’s causes.
“Thanks to Tom, more children get a head start on success in school. In life, more seniors receive better health care, more families breath easier because they know their country will be there for them in times of need,” said Obama.
“All of them, all of us are indebted to that towering man from Spokane,” he added.