Opinion: Tributes to Jack Kemp from both sides, starting with President Obama

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(UPDATE: An update on the memorial service has been added below.)

Former Southern Californian, Representative, Cabinet secretary, presidential and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp died Saturday night of cancer at age 73. We published a detailed political news item at that time here.

His family issued this statement:

During the treatment of his cancer, Jack expressed his gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of so many friends, a gratitude which the Kemp family shares.

Today, others began issuing tributes to the son of a Southern California motorcycle messenger who turned a bike into a substantial trucking company. Here are some of the tributes. We’ll add more as they become available.

We start with President Obama, who like Kemp attended Occidental College:


Jack Kemp’s commitment to public service and his passion for politics influenced not only the direction of his party, but his country. From his tenure as a Buffalo congressman to his ascent in national politics, Jack Kemp was a man who could fiercely advocate his own beliefs and principles while also remembering the lessons he learned years earlier on the football field:

that bitter divisiveness between race and class and station only stood in...

... the way of the ‘common aim of a team to win.’ Michelle and I extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the entire Kemp family.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee:

For over three decades Jack Kemp was a standard-bearer for economic conservatism and lower taxes within the Republican Party. From his 18 years spent representing upstate New York in the United States House of Representatives, to his four years as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H. W. Bush, to his work with Empower America, to his selection as the 1996 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Mr. Kemp was a tireless proponent of America’s entrepreneurial and political spirit.
On a personal note, Jack was a dear friend and mentor. He would often remind me what it meant to be a ‘Lincoln Republican.’ Through his words and deeds, he inspired a new generation of Republican activists.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Joanne and their children, Jeffrey, Jennifer, Judith and Jimmy and the entire Kemp family as we thank them for sharing the life of Jack Kemp, with the American people.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, House Republican leader:

Like millions of Americans I was saddened to learn of Jack Kemp’s illness, and I am saddened by news of his passing. Jack Kemp inspired a generation of conservatives with his unyielding commitment to freedom and free-market policies. He articulated a vision of America that placed opportunity and freedom for all ahead of government and bureaucracy.

In announcing his presidential campaign, he said of America’s destiny, ‘There are no limits to our future if we don’t put limits on our people.’ He pioneered innovative solutions for America’s economy and co-authored, along with the late Senator William Roth, the tax rate reductions of President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.

Jack Kemp was a thinker, a doer, and an American patriot who lived an extraordinary life. He was a champion football player, a Member of Congress, a Cabinet secretary, and a vice-presidential nominee. I send condolences to Jack’s wife Joanne and their children and grandchildren.

The most recent former President George W. Bush:

Laura and I are saddened by the death of Jack Kemp. Jack will be remembered for his significant contributions to the Reagan revolution and his steadfast dedication to conservative principles during his long and distinguished career in public service. Jack’s wife Joanne and the rest of the Kemp family are in our thoughts and prayers.

Republican Party of Orange County:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the fallen conservative champion and former Vice Presidential nominee Jack Kemp.

Secretary Kemp will always have a special place in the OCGOP community.

He was a frequent visitor to his beloved Southern California. He spoke to RWF units, College Republicans and worked phone banks with grassrooters. He lectured at local universities and often met with activists to give a helping hand.

In his bid for Vice President in 1996, he chose to call Orange County home and spent Election Night with his OCGOP family & friends.

Secretary Kemp passed away Saturday, May 2, 2009, at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was survived by his wife Joanne and four children (Jeffrey, Jennifer, Judith and Jimmy) and seventeen grandchildren.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Jack Kemp was a tireless public servant, a championship-winning athlete and devoted family man. He was an original big tent Republican, encouraging a robust debate of ideas. Maria and I are saddened by his passing, and on behalf of all Californians, we send our thoughts and prayers to Jack’s family and friends as they mourn this tremendous loss.

(UPDATE: The Kemp family has announced details of the memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral on Friday, May 8 at 2 p.m. ‘The memorial service is open to family, friends, former colleagues, and all those who would like to attend. Seating for the service begins at 1 pm, and attendees should plan on arriving as close to 1 pm as possible.

(The service is closed to media; however, media organizations are allowed outside, near the west end entrance to the Cathedral for arrivals and departures. Since all Cathedral schools are in session, no surface parking will be available. Media are asked to drop off at Wisconsin Avenue and South Road.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credits: Associated Press