San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco, California
(October 5, 2023)
1:42 P.M. PDT
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you, Mayor Breed.
To Katherine, Eileen, Rick, and the entire family, and to all the distinguished guests who are gathered, it is my honor to be here with you today.
Dianne Feinstein was an icon of California. She was an American patriot, a giant of the Senate, and a dear friend to Doug and me.
She was also a student of history; a gifted and, I will add, very generous artist — many of us are collectors of Dianne’s work — (laughter); and a passionate leader.
Simply put, she was a force.
To many of you, she was supervisor, Mayor, Senator, and then Chairman. She was recognized around the world as a leader, a standard-bearer of America and of American values.
Yet, of course, to Katherine and Eileen, she held perhaps the most important titles of all: mother and grandmother. So, to Katherine and Eileen and Rick and to the entire family, Doug and my prayers are with you. And I don’t have to tell you — (an aircraft flies over) — that it is not easy — it is not easy when a loved one lives a life of public service, especially a person as hardworking and selfless as Dianne Feinstein.
So, to you, the family, we thank you for all the sacrifices you have knowingly and unknowingly made over the years that allowed her to serve. And on behalf of the people of the United States, we are grateful to you.
As a public servant, Dianne had the courage to take on the many tough fights, even when she was faced with fierce opposition and political peril, and especially when her work was in defense of the Constitution and the security of the American people.
Dianne commanded respect, and she gave respect. She was a serious and gracious person who welcomed debate and discussion but always required that it would be well-informed and studied. And I believe that this city where she started had a lot to do with that.
To the uninitiated here, I will let you in on a well-known secret: San Francisco politics is rough and tumble. (Laughter.) Some even say a bare-knuckled sport. And this city requires its elected officials to engage on a daily basis in complex discussions with informed constituents who will raise the most intricate of local issues, no matter if you are walking through the Presidio or attending an event at Delancey Street.
And this environment, I do believe, guided Dianne’s style of leadership even after she reached the heights of national and global power.
Dianne diligently focused on the impacts to real people, not ideology; substance, not showmanship; results, not rhetoric.
When I was sworn into the Senate in 2017, it was Dianne who welcomed me. She invited me to her Senate hideaway. There, with one hand, she presented me with a glass of California Chardonnay and, with the other hand, a binder full of her draft bills. (Laughter.)
And true to her mayoral roots, she was deeply immersed in the details of each bill and how each would play on the streets of our beloved state.
Some of my fondest recent memories of Dianne are of our time together in a SCIF — a secure meeting room in the United States Senate. Every week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee would walk into that wood-paneled room — no cameras, no public, no devices. (An aircraft flies over.)
Senators of both parties who would take off their jackets and literally roll up their sleeves, putting aside partisanship to discuss what was in the best interests of our national security. There, we would review classified materials and receive updates from the heads of the CIA, our intelligence community, and the United States military.
And God forbid, if one of them gave an evasive answer, Dianne, with her trademark grin, would pause, lift up her memo, glance knowingly at the others of us on the dais, and question the witness in a way this former prosecutor always admired. (Laughter.)
In that room, there was give and take, substantive debate, and problem-solving. And that was quintessential Dianne at her best.
So, as I close, allow me to turn back the clock 30 years to Tuesday, November 3rd, 1992. I was a young prosecutor at the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. And on that evening, I left my home in Oakland, got in my Toyota Corolla, and drove across the Bay Bridge to the city. I pulled into the Fairmont Hotel, and I walked up to a huge and packed ballroom.
There on stage stood Dianne and Barbara Boxer, hands raised in what the nation would name the “Year of the Woman.” We celebrated an historic feat. We were the first state to elect two female senators. And that night we celebrated Dianne, who the next day would take office as the first female senator ever for the great state of California.
Fast forward to today, when I again traveled to the city to celebrate Dianne, this time from Washington, D.C., on Air Force Two.
Dianne, the women of America have come a long way, our country has come a long way, and you helped move the ball forward. And our nation salutes you, Dianne. (Applause.)
END 1:50 P.M. PDT