To the Power of Words: Remembering Congressman Dellums

The summer of 1988, back when I was in high school, I was honored, and grateful, to be a page in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of course, I came to Washington expecting to witness rousing speeches and watershed moments, but the Floor of the House was mostly quiet that summer and the job really consisted of delivering mail around the Capitol and developing endless calluses. But then on August 8th, just before the Congressional recess, everything changed. Congressman Ron Dellums, an African-American from Oakland, California, took to the podium and gave the most intense and moving speech I had – and still have – ever witnessed in my life. His Anti-Apartheid bill, a cause, which he had worked on for many years, if not all of his career, was expected to fail, but his speech was so impassioned that not only did his fellow members come out to watch him, but that rarest of things actually happened: those who were about to vote against the bill were so stirred by his oratory that they actually changed their minds. Congressman Dellums cried during that speech, which won him a standing ovation, and it is a privilege to remember him, and all that he did to fight Apartheid, today, upon his death. He was a great American who did not give up hope and worked tirelessly to accomplish what had once seemed an impossible dream. To the power of words, to the power of a single person to effect the course of history, and may there be better days ahead.