[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 153 (2007), Part 24]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages 33472-33473]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]



                             HON. JO BONNER

                               of alabama

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, December 6, 2007

  Mr. BONNER. Madam Speaker, it is with both pride and pleasure that I 
rise today to honor one of the most beloved residents of Alabama, Miss 
Nelle Harper Lee, on the occasion of her receiving the Presidential 
Medal of Freedom for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
  A native of Monroeville, Alabama, Miss Lee began her writing career 
at the University of Alabama where she wrote for student publications 
and served for one year as the editor of a campus humor magazine. She 
moved to New York City in 1950 where she worked as a reservations clerk 
with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC.
  In 1956, Miss Lee found an agent, and soon after, she began the draft 
of To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel was published on July 11, 1960, and 
became an immediate bestseller. She won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for 
Fiction for her novel, and in a 1999, poll run by the Library Journal, 
her novel was voted ``Best Novel of the Century.''
  In 1966, Miss Lee was named to the National Council of Arts by 
President Johnson, and since that time, she has received many honorary 
doctorate degrees for her outstanding contributions to literature.
  Madam Speaker, Miss Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird is a 
model of literary achievement that has become an American classic. Its 
pages spoke a strong message of honor and tolerance during our Nation's 
struggle for equality. So, from one native south Alabamian to another, 
please accept my heartfelt expression of pride--on behalf of all of us 
who, over the years, have been touched in some way by ``Mockingbird.''
  It is only appropriate that I ask my colleagues to join with me in 
congratulating Miss Nelle Harper Lee on receiving this award. I know 
her sisters--Louise Lee Conner and Alice Lee--her family and her many 
friends join with me in praising her significant accomplishments.
  Today, Madam Speaker, I rise to ask that President George W. Bush's 
remarks in honor of Miss Lee made at the ceremony for the 2007 Medal of 
Freedom recipients be entered into the Congressional Record:

[[Page 33473]]

President Bush Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients, East Room--November 
                                5, 2007

       The President. Good morning. Laura and I are thrilled to 
     welcome you to the White House. We welcome the members of 
     Congress, the members of the Cabinet, and other distinguished 
     guests. It's an honor to be with the Medal of Freedom 
     recipients, as well as their family members and friends. 
     We're sure glad you're here.
       The Medal of Freedom is the highest civil honor that a 
     President can bestow. By an executive order of John F. 
     Kennedy, the medal is designed to recognize great 
     contributions to national security, the cause of peace and 
     freedom, science, the arts, literature, and many other 
     fields. The eight men and women came to this distinction by 
     very different paths. Each of them, by effort and by 
     character, has earned the respect of the American people, and 
     holds a unique place in the story of our time.
       The story of an old order, and the glimmers of humanity 
     that would one day overtake it, was unforgettably told in a 
     book by Miss Harper Lee. Soon after its publication a 
     reviewer said this: ``A hundred pounds of sermons on 
     tolerance, or an equal measure of invective deploring the 
     lack of it, will weigh far less in the scale of enlightenment 
     than a mere 18 ounces of a new fiction bearing the title To 
     Kill a Mockingbird.''
       Given her legendary stature as a novelist, you may be 
     surprised to learn that Harper Lee, early in her career, was 
     an airline reservation clerk. (Laughter.) Fortunately for all 
     of us, she didn't stick to writing itineraries. (Laughter.) 
     Her beautiful book, with its grateful prose and memorable 
     characters, became one of the biggest-selling novels of the 
     20th century.
       Forty-six years after winning the Pulitzer Prize, To Kill a 
     Mockingbird still touches and inspires every reader. We're 
     moved by the story of a man falsely accused--with old 
     prejudice massed against him, and an old sense of honor that 
     rises to his defense. We learn that courage can be a solitary 
     business. As the lawyer Atticus Finch tells his daughter, 
     ``before I can live with other folks I've got to live with 
     myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is 
     a person's conscience.''
       Years after To Kill a Mockingbird was put to film, the 
     character of Atticus Finch was voted the greatest movie hero 
     of all time. It won Gregory Peck the Oscar. He was said to 
     believe the role ``brought him closest to being the kind of 
     man he aspired to be.'' The great actor counted Harper Lee 
     among his good friends, and we're so pleased that Gregory 
     Peck's wife, Veronique, is with us today. Thank you for 
       One reason To Kill a Mockingbird succeeded is the wise and 
     kind heart of the author, which comes through on every page. 
     This daughter of Monroeville, Alabama had something to say 
     about honor, and tolerance, and, most of all, love--and it 
     still resonates. Last year Harper Lee received an honorary 
     doctorate at Notre Dame. As the degree was presented, the 
     graduating class rose as one, held up copies of her book, and 
     cheered for the author they love.
       To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our 
     country for the better. It's been a gift to the entire world. 
     As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book 
     will be read and studied forever. And so all of us are filled 
     with admiration for a great American and a lovely lady named 
     Harper Lee.
       Now I call on the military aide to read the citations for 
     the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
       Military Aide. Harper Lee. Harper Lee's beautiful book is a 
     meditation on family, human complexity, and some of the great 
     themes of American life. At a critical moment in our history, 
     To Kill a Mockingbird helped focus the nation on the 
     turbulent struggle for equality. The novel became an instant 
     American classic and earned her a Pulitzer Prize. Nearly half 
     a century after its publication, her work continues to 
     captivate new readers who encounter its compelling power for 
     the first time. The United States honors Harper Lee for her 
     outstanding contribution to the great literary tradition of 
       The President. Thank you all for coming. Laura and I now 
     invite you to a reception here in the State Dining Room. I 
     hope you've enjoyed this ceremony as much as I have. May God 
     bless you all. Thank you.