Great Floridians Film Series - Claude Pepper, Part 2

Uploaded by FloridaDeptOfState on 14.12.2010

"And then he wound up by saying, you know,
we would have thought,
since we suffered more than any of the Allies,
that we would get some help
from your country after the war.
But, he said, I requested $6 billion in aid, I can't remember whether he said a gift or a loan,
from your country,
over six months ago
and we've never even had an answer.
To our request.
Well I said, I've never heard anything about that.
So I said, I'll look into it.
And when I got back, I made some reference to it in my remarks to the floor of the Senate,
and I asked the State Department, was it true.
They said, yes, there was something about that, but it got lost.
I've often wondered, how much
an incident like that
may have contributed
to the Cold War that came along later.
When we didn't give them any aid at all
while we were giving billions,
under the Marshall Plan,
to Europe, which was quite proper.
And if we had maybe taken a
little different point of view then
the future might have been different."
Because of his desire to help war-torn Russia and his friendliness towards Stalin,
many people thought that was a Communist.
Opposition to Pepper also rose in the late Forties because of his liberal social reforms,
these intense feelings fueled the fire for one of the dirtiest political smear campaigns
the 1950 battle for the Senate seat.
"Well, I remember Claude Pepper
when he was a Senator.
One of his proteges was a bright young man named George Smathers.
And he had
made George Smathers' career.
He literally lifted George Smathers up into prominence.
Smathers became so prominent that he decided to challege the boss."
"Pepper didn't really know what hit him in that campaign until it was almost over."
"It was a clever campaign,
but also
there were hints of 'Red Pepper.'
They were stationing
blacks at the foot
of a platform where Pepper was speaking.
And then when he came off the platform
the black would extend his hand and of course Pepper would shake hands with him.
And then this picture would appear, blown up in Smathers campaign literature, they
would call him a [Negro]-lover."
"And he would use words that really had no meaning,
to make it appear that Claude Pepper was doing something really illicit,
And then there was that classic speech, which Smathers always denies he ever made, that
Claude Pepper was known throughout Washington as an extrovert,
his sister had been a
thespian in New York.
He had practiced nepotism with his sister-in-law."
"All of this was unfair,
all of this was untrue,
all of this defeated Claude Pepper."
After the 1950 defeat,
Claude Pepper returned to the private sector for 12 years. During this time, Pepper decided
to leave his North Florida roots and moved to Miami,
where he re-established a constituency more sympathetic to his views.
In 1962 the newly-created congressional seat in Miami's booming retirement community
provided Pepper with the opportunity to return to Washington, where he has remained to this day.
Ironically, New Deal liberalism is now in tune with the graying of America.
Claude Pepper is the dogged defender of some 36 million Social Security recipients,
as well as millions more who are nearing retirement.
After 11 consecutive terms, Pepper now faces only token opposition.
He draws authority, not only from his leadership qualities, but from the support of millions
of elderly americans. "Interestingly, you know, the first bill he introduced
when he was a member of the Florida
legislature, was a bill to waive the
fee for fishing licenses for people over 65 years of age.
You know, a lot of people think that Claude Pepper has always been old,
but he was 28 years old at the time.
And he was very concerned about the elderly
even then.
When he was in his early 40s, in Congress, he established the National Old Folks Day,
that was his bill.
And he introduced a bill
which is similar to Medicare
in the early 40s."
In the 1970s and 1980s, Pepper has again been successful in initiating important
legislation for the elderly,
including elimination of a mandatory retirement age for most employees in the public and private
His very person debunks the myth
about aging, says Jack Ossofsky, of the National Council on Aging.
A presidential aide says, of Pepper,
there are only two Democrats who really bug Reagan. One is Chip O'Neal, and the other is that congressman
who keeps talking about Social Security.
And Florida senator Lawton Chiles says 'He's reversed the aging process,
he has more political power than ever.'
"As the eminent scholar, Chair on Gerontology, Claude was instrumental in raising the $600,00
with friends, of his. Bob Hope,
Anthony Quinn,
Walter Cronkite, many others.
He and I had a long discussion about this Chair, I asked him
for the devil's advocate, I asked him, don't you want it in History, or Political Science, or Oratory.
Something that
you've been involved in all your life, and he said
no, I'm interested in concerns for the old people.
And I want it in Gerontology."
"In my 49 years in public life,
I've never met a better man,
or the equal to Claude Pepper.
His extraordinary mind.
His stamina,
his dedication to fairness and to justice,
and his total loyalty
are absolutely unflawed,
believe me.
Claude Pepper
is a national treasure.
And while we're honoring you, we also honor
Florida State University.
For they have, in their archives
for the future of its students,
the memoirs
of a great citizen, who is going to live in the minds
and the lives of the American people."
"Claude Pepper's entire career in the Congress
has been devoted to
protecting vulnerable people
in our population,
He, it's wrong to think of him as just a champion of the elderly.
He's a champion of anyone who
is disadvantaged in our society."
"He was a New Dealer before there was a New Deal.
Because Pepper came to the conviction, that if people's lives were to be made better,
but the government was going to have to play a greater role."
"There aren't very many aspects of life in Florida that have not been positively touched by
Claude Pepper. Over his career he's helped
to build a stronger economy in the state,
improve our education
system, to protect our environment."
"Claude Pepper is the man,
most of all people from Florida,
who his best-known,
over the United States."
"He just goes from dawn until dusk, he's making speeches,
presiding over the Rules Committee, he's on the floor of the House,
he's travelling to conventions or to public occurences.
It's just amazing how he keeps going."
"He's a great believer in building institutions that are permanent,
and will last
long after he's gone."
"I think Claude Pepper will eventually be regarded as the Cicero of American
"Well, we never doubt where he stands.
And we never have any question about his sincerity,
and that
together with his passion,
and his extraordinary mind,
have made him a power in our times.
And because of
how long this career has lasted, he is now turning into a legend in our times."
"In conclusion,
let me just say that,
the greatest
epic, to me, in history,
is the behavior
of the democracy
of America.
For 200 years!
Now a nation 3,000 miles wide, and 1500 miles deep,
with 240 million people.
Those people coming from 155 different national backgrounds,
from all parts of the world, living under different areas in America,
climes and terrains.
Each one of those individuals
has gone into the secrecy
of the ballot box, known only to God,
and voted.
And in the consensus of their free actions,
as free men,
has grown.
And prospered.
And remained
great and strong.
You may be sure
that America will continue
that same
in meeting expectations
of our people.
And so, politics
will go on
in our democracy.
We hope,
until that remote time
described by the poets
as the time
when the stars grow old,
from the sun grows cold,
and the leaves of the judgement book
unfold. Thank you very much."
"And I do hope to see the day
when every boy or girl, at least born in the United States, and I wish I could say that
for the world,
will be given the opportunity to get the education that
he or she is, by nature,
fitted to enjoy.
Fitted to have.
Secondly, I
wish we could devise the system underway,
which every man, woman, and child
could live as long
as nature,
and all the medical science and medical facilities we possess,
could make it possible for them to live.
Life is a precious thing,
given of God
nobody should have that life shortened."
"I was
reading some history,
of great men,
and I read a statement from the philosopher Josiah Holland,
which I thought
fit Pepper
like a glove.
It's just a few words, I'd like to recite it to you.
'God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts,
true faith and ready hands.
Men whom the lust of office does not kill
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy.
Men who posses opinions and a will;
Men who have honor,
and men who will not lie.'
So, to me
Senator Pepper
was a lawyer,
friend of the friendless,
and citizen extraordinary."
"I remember his telling a story in the
early 1980s, when
he was only
82-83, I guess, at that time.
About going to the doctor for a pacemaker
to be implanted.
And he said to the doctor he said, Doctor,
about how long do these things usually last?
And the doctor said about fifteen years.
So, Claude says to him, I'll take two."
"He spoke here in 1976
at the commencement.
The first year I was president, and he
spoke in 1986, and I've invited him for 1996."
"I hate to anticipate his loss."
"Probably, you know that old saying,
he lived in an old house by the side of the road and was a friend to man.
Let them say that Claude Pepper was one of the fellows that came along,
and lived for a good many years,
and did much
to make life better for people.
They were able, many of them, to walk on higher ground because this fella
came along and gave his efforts,
and a large part of his life
to try to make things better for other people."
very sincere."
"I have to say articulate."
"He's just unstoppable."
"Dedicated, or irreplacable."