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 Home > News & Policies > March 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 13, 2001

Remarks by the President at Bill Signing Ceremony
The Rose Garden

2:02 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please be seated. It's my honor to welcome you all to the Rose Garden. So many friends and colleagues of Joe Moakley are here -- I want to thank you all for coming. This is the first bill signing ceremony to take place in the Rose Garden since I've been the President. And I'm glad to be part of an event honoring a distinguished member of the United States Congress.

President Bush speaks at bill signing ceremony.

After today, the U.S. Courthouse, located at 1 Courthouse Way in Boston, will be officially known as the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse. (Applause.) It is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man.

Joe Moakley is a man of strong opinions and broad respect. And in this town it isn't always easy to combine the two, but over a long career he's been able to do so. He's a self-described bread-and-butter Democrat. Others know him as a formidable advocate for his party's cause. Ever since he joined the House of Representatives in 1972, he has made the cares and concerns of everyday people his business.

Joe is not only a passionate advocate for what he believes in, he's an enormously effective member of Congress. Representative Moakley understands how the United States House of Representatives operates; he knows its rules and he knows its ways.

But what makes Joe Moakley exceptional is not simply his political skills, it is the fact that he's so well-liked and admired by members of both political parties. Joe has a well-deserved reputation for being civil, friendly and funny. Members love his sharp Irish sense of humor. They admire his courage in the face of adversity. And a few past members of the Rules Committee even liked his singing voice. Notice I said a few. (Laughter.)

But above everything else, Joe Moakley has brought honor to his profession. Some people run for office by trying to tear down the institutions of government. Not this man from South Boston. Joe loves the United States Congress, and he loves public service.

Like Robert Kennedy, another son of Massachusetts, Joe Moakley considers politics to be an honorable profession, an opportunity for achievement and a truly exciting adventure. If Speaker McCormack and Speaker O'Neill where here today, they would have a simple tribute to this good man: Well done, John Joseph Moakley. You served your constituents and your Congress and your country with honor and distinction.

Congressman Moakley. (Applause.)

REPRESENTATIVE MOAKLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And since this is your first bill signing here in the Rose Garden, I'm sure you'll never forget it. (Laughter.) But, seriously, to have this courthouse in South Boston is probably the highest honor I can think of.

As a youngster of six or seven, I used to go down there, and all the railroad cars used to come up from the south and they'd unload their vegetables and fruits. And we used to wait for the watermelons. And of course, somebody would always drop a watermelon, and once they dropped it, it was ours.

But, unfortunately, in that neighborhood, nothing happened for 60 years but that watermelon breaking. Now, with the infusion of federal money, and with the hard work of my colleagues in the Senate, led by Senator Kennedy, and my colleagues in the House, there is now a beautiful courthouse there. And it's the only federal building in South Boston.

So I'm very happy that you felt, Mr. President, that you could sign this legislation that was shepherded so quickly through the House by my colleagues from the Massachusetts delegation, so quickly through the Senate by Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry. And I'll always be in your debt for this.

I always thought, growing up, that my name would be on some federal building, but I thought it might be written in chalk with some political expletive right behind it. (Laughter.) And to have it etched in the courthouse, the state-of-the-art courthouse -- and if you people haven't seen the courthouse, please visit it. It's a beautiful, beautiful courthouse.

And this is a very graphic example of how the federal government spent so much money to spur the economy. As a result of this courthouse, we're going to get billions and billions of dollars worth of new building -- office buildings, condominiums, it's going to revitalize an area that up until now was just a haven of low-grade commercial uses. And it's just a wonderful experience that we're going to have rapid transit down there now. Up until this time, it was like the Sahara Desert -- everybody knew where it was, but nobody wanted to go there.

So, Mr. President, your final act of signing this bill today really puts the cap on it. And my family, my brothers and their wives, and my friends and myself feel very indebted to you for helping speed this bill through.

And, you know, it's nice to be on the same side of the grass that the monument that honors you is on. And for a while, I didn't think I was going to make it. I feel fine. On a day like this, the good Lord is sharing His sunshine with us and allowed the President to have this in this wonderful, wonderful Rose Garden. And these are memories that I'll take with me.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 2:12 P.M. EST