Pope Francis made history this week as the first Pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. During his address, Pope Francis spoke of freedom, opportunity, and the American Dream. He presented a message of hope and reinforced our shared goal of putting people first so they have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. In a time when we face many great challenges, the Pope reminds us that we also face a future of countless possibilities.
I was honored to be joined by Archdiocese of Savannah Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OEM, Conv. and Bishop Emeritus J. Kevin Boland for the address.
Prior to his address to Congress, Amy and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Pope Francis to America at the White House.
What an incredible experience and historic time for our nation!
From our nation’s Capitol
Tuesday, Sept. 22: After meeting yesterday with representatives from Gulfstream Aerospace and the General Aviation Manufactures Association to discuss aviation issues as well as with Bishop Emeritus Kevin Boland and Bishop Gregory Hartmayer of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah to discuss their upcoming trip to the Capitol during the Pope’s visit, I start today by speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of The Oaks at Pooler in Godley Station in Pooler.
This assisted living and Alzheimer’s care community will be home to nearly 100 seniors and will feature 61 assisted living apartments and 29 memory care apartments.
Later, I have a series of meetings at my Savannah District Office where I meet with constituents about a variety of issues. I also have a number of phone interviews with national media outlets about a recent letter I have sent to the Department of Defense in an effort to improve benefits for Tricare recipients. Before heading to the airport to head back up to Washington, I have a meeting with the Georgia Bankers Association, a group that has certainly felt the impact of the federal government’s overreach with onerous rules and regulations.
Wednesday, Sept. 23: You can sense the excitement in the air in our nation’s capital today as His Holiness, Pope Francis, is in town for his first visit to the U.S. Amy and I are honored to be invited to the White House this morning to participate in the arrival ceremony honoring Pope Francis.
It’s still dark outside when we leave the Capitol with our friends, Rep. Rick Allen (R-Augusta) and his wife Robyn, to head to the White House for a welcoming ceremony. As to be expected, the security is exceptionally tight for this event and we have to go through three checkpoints before we finally get in at 6:30 a.m. Although we have to wait for almost three hours before the Pope finally arrives, no one minds as the thousands of people gathered on the White House lawn are all too excited about this momentous occasion.
The pomp and pageantry are breathtaking as all branches of our military are represented and in full dress when the Pope finally arrives around 9:15 a.m. in a small Fiat that is his chosen mode of transportation. The weather is beautiful and the sun shines brightly as the President and Pope emerge from the White House onto the South Lawn to the cheers of those in attendance as well as the national television audience.
After the national anthems are played, the President welcomes the Pope and, although he only speaks fluent Spanish and Italian, he delivers a short message in English to the adoring audience. As I fight back tears of joy at the thought of being at such a special event and in the presence of such a holy man, I can’t help but think of how honored I am to be here today and to live in such a great country.
Although I’m not Catholic, to witness this great religious leader in our country and to hear his heartfelt comments is truly inspirational. I’ve been to some great sporting events, as well as other special events in my lifetime, but the electricity in the air during this event is unsurpassed.
After the Pope leaves in his “Popemobile” to greet people lined along the roadways of Washington, I head back to the Capitol still fighting tears of joy and with goosebumps all over.
Later in the day, I have the opportunity with a few other members of Congress to meet with former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush to hear an update from him about his campaign. Governor Bush was in Athens on Saturday to attend the Georgia-South Carolina football game and we talked about his experiences there as well.
Thursday, Sept. 24: For the first time in our nation’s history, a sitting Pope will be addressing a joint meeting of Congress today, and I’m up early to welcome Bishop Boland and Bishop Hartmayer to my office. Both Bishop Boland and Hartmayer attended mass yesterday afternoon with the Pope at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and I am delighted to have them as our special guests today.
After meeting and visiting with our staff, Bishop Hartmayer honors me and our staff by blessing our office before we head to the House chamber for this momentous event. After Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and the President’s Cabinet are seated, the Pope addresses Congress in slow, deliberative English. His message of hope, courage and responsibility is well received and he receives a number of standing ovations.
Afterwards he makes an appearance on the Speaker’s balcony on the west lawn of the Capitol where thousands of adoring guests are gathered to see the “People’s Pope.”
Afterwards, the Pope leaves in the same vehicle he arrived in, a small Fiat, his choice of transportation. Later in the afternoon, I have a number of television interviews to discuss the Pope’s visit before we get back to work with our first and only votes of the day.
Friday, Sept. 25: Although everyone is still excited about the Pope’s visit this week, we’re back to business and my first meeting of the day is with representatives from Gulfstream Aerospace for a briefing on the military’s JSTARS program.
Next, I head to a Republican Conference meeting where we are all shocked to hear Speaker John Boehner announce that he will be stepping down as Speaker and resigning from Congress on Oct. 30. I appreciate anyone who is willing to put themself forward for public service and, as an elected official myself, I know the burden someone is accepting when they offer themselves for an office.
Although I have not always agreed with Speaker Boehner’s actions, I have never questioned his commitment to doing what he thinks is best for our Conference, our Congress and our country. In the end, whether you agree with him or not, Speaker Boehner is a good man and his action today is one of the most selfless actions I have ever witnessed.
After a very emotional two-hour meeting, I head to the House chamber for our first and only vote series of the day. Afterwards, I stay in the chamber as I once again serve as Speaker pro tem during one minute speeches, followed by adjourning the House for the week. Before heading to the airport to return home, I do a number of radio and television interviews regarding the Speaker’s announcement.