Touching memorial held for Lantos

February 14, 2008 12:42:18 PM PST
World leaders and family members joined together to honor Peninsula Congressman Tom Lantos. He died at age 80 this week from cancer of the esophagus after nearly three decades of serving in Congress. The memorial at the U.S. Capitol paid tribute to a life that overcame the worst in man, and inspired the best in man.

Congressman Lantos' wife Annette entered Statuary Hall to see just how respected her husband and childhood sweetheart was. From across the sea and across the aisle, dignitaries came to say goodbye.

"I personally feel that I've lost an irreplaceable mentor and a dear, dear friend, who embodied the best of America," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"He was the first Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress and he took that responsibility very seriously," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) San Francisco.

The Hungarian native escaped Nazi labor camps twice as a teenager but lost his mother. So as Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, he fought for human freedom, from Tibet to Darfur.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was a close friend.

"We benefited from his tireless efforts to train our consciousness and conscience to the dangers that come with inaction, intolerance and injustice," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presented to Annette Lantos the flag that flew at the Capitol Monday, when Lantos passed away. His fellow Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel urged the world to honor Lantos by continuing the fight for human rights.

"So my dear friend, farewell, go in peace and rest in peace," said Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

U2 lead singer Bono borrowed a message from the Beatles.

"All you need you need is love, love is all you need," sang Bono.

Last month, when Congressman Lantos announced his illness, he said his story was one that only could happen in America. His quote: "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."