The wisdom of Tom Lantos

lantos.jpgLast month, I posted the story of Ken Dahlberg, who grew up poor in St. Paul and Wisconsin, and ended up being a rich guy, with a stop along the way to become an ace in World War II.

There’s another person today, whose life just makes you shake your head at the amazing journey, which ended today for Rep. Tom Lantos of California. He died of cancer in Washington.

Says the Associated Press:

Lantos, who referred to himself as ”an American by choice,” was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, and was 16 when Adolf Hitler occupied Hungary in 1944. He survived by escaping from the labor camp and coming under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews.

As his obituary by the AP (no doubt prepared well in advance) notes, Lantos brought a moral authority to his work as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a coveted spot in the Great Comments on Capitol Hill Hall of Fame.

”Morally, you are pygmies,” he told execs of Yahoo! last year, when they defended their company’s role in providing the information to China, which allowed it to jail a journalist.

Some other favorite Lantosisms:

“The Lord gave us Ten Commandments, but the bill before the House today gives us 39.” — June 2005, speaking on a Republican get-tough-with-the-U.N. bill.

“You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany.” — October 2007 in an exchange with Dutch lawmakers who visited Guantanamo Bay. The exchange also included, ““Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”

“Unless you’re unbelievably naive, it is self-evident that baseball’s new policy is designed to silence the critics and not to solve the problem.” – March 2005 at congressional inquiry into steroids in baseball.

“It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.” — Last month, announcing he would retire from Congress, knowing he was dying.

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