Rep. Crowley's Remarks at 13th Annual Black History Month Event

February 22, 2012

Below are Rep. Crowley’s remarks as prepared for delivery. To read more about the event, please click here.

Thank you, and welcome to my 13th annual Black History Month celebration.

Tonight, I am honored to share the stage with three remarkable New Yorkers.

Our honorees Veta Brome and George Crouch.

And our special guest Len Elmore.

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Len and I both attended the same high school, Power Memorial Academy.

We were ten years apart, but about 100 years apart in basketball ability.

That’s not to say I couldn’t hold my own out there, but as we all know Len is a special talent.

As much as I’d like to talk basketball tonight, and about Linsanity, or should I say Lensanity?

What brings us here tonight is much larger than basketball.

It’s about men and women in our community who became leaders not so much because of their professional success, but the way they achieved that success.

The way they lead their life on a sometimes difficult path through this world.

And the way they conduct themselves after a lifetime of achievement.

Len Elmore, Veta Brome and George Crouch all have the talent, ambition and intelligence that are prerequisites to successful careers.

Veta in real estate.

George in the classroom.

And Len, well Len what is it exactly you do?

From the court to the courtroom to the broadcaster’s booth, Len has done it all.

After ten years in the ABA and NBA, Len graduated from Harvard Law in 1987.

A year before another famous Harvard Law alum arrived on campus, President Barack Obama, I might add.

He then began a three year stint in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

Imagine voluntarily going from the bright lights of Madison Square Garden to the street lights of Brooklyn in a matter of three years.

From the NBA to a DA.

Len has often said that growing up in New York City during the Civil Rights Movement inspired him to be a lawyer.

That the difficulties of this period and the discourse over the Vietnam War made it very clear to him that he couldn’t be a bystander.

And a bystander he has certainly not been.

But, to go back to my earlier point – what has defined Len as person is the way he has achieved all of this.

I bet that most don’t know Len was a sports agent for a few years in the early 90’s.

During this time, he sought to go about the sports business in a different way.

By treating the business as a pursuit of character instead a pursuit of profit.

By going after clients who were not just gifted with extraordinary athletic ability, but with extraordinary character.

Who sought success in life rather than just on the court.

When prompted to describe what kind of player he wanted to represent, Len replied “those who don’t want to be emulated, but rather followed.”

He wasn’t in the business of crafting role models.

He was in the business of crafting leaders.

Leaders who take active roles in their communities.

Leaders who inspire through character, not just ability.

Leaders who see the heights of professional success as one part of a larger and more important narrative.

Leaders such as Veta and George.

Leaders such as himself.

While Len and I have followed very different paths, we were both strongly influenced by our time at Power Memorial.

When Len attended Power our city and our country were going through some very tumultuous times.

During the 60’s and 70’s, our city was a very different place.

Gripped by conflicts over the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, labor strikes and economic decline, New York was going through a tough period.

But in school I found, as I’m sure Len found, a community that came together even though we had very different backgrounds.

A community that shaped leaders.

A community that brought people together regardless of race, background or wealth.

A community that taught us that what’s right is not always the easiest path.

Now, Len and I were extremely blessed to be given this opportunity.

I know recent years have been tough for the Bronx and Queens.

As they have for the entire country.

Last year, I stood here and discussed some of the challenges we are having in this country.

Painfully high unemployment.

A record number of people struggling to put food on the table and pay for basic needs.

Millions of people unable to afford healthcare, a basic human right.

And leaders trying to overcome a decade of wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.

But amidst these difficult realities, many of my colleagues in Congress were determined to place ideology over reality.

To place their agenda over the well-being of millions of struggling Americans.

While we are not out of the woods yet, there is hope on the horizon.

In recent months, we’ve received better news on the jobs front.  No, not great news yet – but still better news.

President Obama’s healthcare plan, which for the first time in our nation’s history makes this fundamental human right available to all Americans, has stood up to a barrage of attacks.

And just this last week we passed into law the President’s payroll tax cut that will save American families an average of $1,000 a year at a time when they need it most.

In Congress, I strive to find ways to provide all Americans with the same opportunities I’ve been blessed with.

Because I know that in this world sometimes hard work and character aren’t enough.

That we all need somebody making sure the scale isn’t weighted against us.

But, at the same time we all know that government doesn’t solve every problem.

Which is why we are here tonight.

To honor community leaders such as Len, Veta and George who fill the void between government, family and community.

To honor these New Yorkers who encourage us to not just set an example for others, but to change the lives of others.

Because community leaders are the catalyst for change and what makes this country great. Take, for example:

The Abolitionist Movement.

The Progressive Era.

The Suffragist Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement.

These were all started and fought from the ground up. By ordinary people and remarkable leaders.

Which is why nights like tonight are so important.

To remember our history and honor those who strive everyday to live up to those ideals.

Congressman Crowley is the seven-term representative from the 7th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as a Chief Deputy Whip in the House of Representatives. Crowley has hosted an annual Black History Month event every year since 2000.