Rep. John Dingell, who is serving his 30th term in the House of Representatives, was honored today as the longest serving member in the history of the U.S. Congress, having eclipsed the tenure of Sen. Robert Byrd late last week.
Dingell, 86, first took office on Dec. 13, 1955, at the age of 29 after winning a special election to replace his late father, John Dingell Sr., as the representative for Michigan’s 15th Congressional District.
“I want to say that I am probably the luckiest man in shoe leather, and I am proud mostly of the friends that I have made,” Dingell, D-Mich., said. “That has been the most important thing in my life.”
The Michigan Democrat, born July 8, 1926, broke Byrd’s record June 7, although the House was not in session that day.
Dingell has owned the title of Dean of the House of Representatives since 1995, given for the longest continuous service of a current member. He has served with 2,419 lawmakers in the House, worked with 11 U.S. presidents and cast more than 25,000 votes during more than 21,000 days in Congress.
“I was given the greatest of all honors,” Dingell said. “I was born a citizen of the greatest, freest and grandest nation in the history of mankind, the United States of America.”
Earlier Thursday, Dingell and his family also joined President Obama in the Oval Office.
This afternoon, Dingell expressed disappointment at the partisanship of the divided Congress, saying he is “troubled about the times in which we find ourselves” where there is “too much ill will, too much hatred, too much bitterness, too much anger.”
“I find myself very much troubled about the fact that we in the Congress don’t seem to learn one of the important lessons, and that’s just the meaning of the body of which we are a part. Congress means a coming together, where people come together to work for great causes in which they all have an important interest and share,” he said. “I’m hopeful that as we move forward, it’ll come to our mind again how important it is that we pull together to work for a common good.”
House Speaker John Boehner, Vice President Joe Biden and other congressional leaders presented Dingell with a replica of his portrait hanging in the Energy and Commerce committee room.
“With you, it’s always about possibilities,” Biden said to Dingell. “I just came to say thanks, and I look forward to continuing working with you because I think that’s the reason why your folks sent you back 30 times. Because they know. They know you respect them, and that’s what this is all about as far as I’m concerned. I love you, old buddy.”
Furthermore, Boehner announced that the Energy and Commerce committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building has been permanently named the John D. Dingell room.
“John Dingell has served this House, the People’s House, with honor and with sincerity,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “If John has taught us anything, it’s that a legacy is not something that you can conjure up or acquire. A legacy is something that you make.”