Governors are sent by Him to punish the evildoers and praise the virtuous (1 Peter 2:14).

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 196 (Friday, December 1, 2017)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1631]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO

                       HONORING REGINALD F. LEWIS


                        HON. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS

                              of maryland

                    in the house of representatives

                        Friday, December 1, 2017

Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, deeply embedded in our character as Americans is the vision that ours should be a nation that offers opportunity to all of our people. Even as we continue to work toward making this shared aspiration a reality, we must also recognize that the pathways to a better life are far more difficult for far too many of our citizens. This is why I addressed my colleagues on December 1. I rose on the floor of the House to celebrate a milestone in our nation's financial history. I spoke of an event 30 years ago when Reginald Francis Lewis tore down long-standing social and political stereotypes in our nation's financial industry. On November 30 and December 1 in 1987, Mr. Lewis negotiated the $985 million leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods--a transaction that was heard in financial circles around the world. At the time, this was the largest offshore transaction in the country--a breakthrough moment orchestrated by a son of Baltimore, who became the first African-American, billion-dollar business tycoon. The 30th anniversary of this step toward realizing our dream of universal economic opportunity deserves celebration both for all that it accomplished and as a reminder of the challenges that we have yet to overcome. Mr. Lewis' acquisition led to the founding of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., the first African-American owned enterprise to break through the billion-dollar mark when it grossed $1.8 billion in sales during its first year. That landmark, in turn, helped to change the landscape of American business forever, paving the way for more Americans of Color to succeed in the billion-dollar-business league. This, however, is only the most apparent reason that I rose in the House to celebrate that moment. Equally important, I reminded my colleagues that Mr. Lewis' character as a human being of African heritage is more representative of our character and ambitions than the negative stereotypes that continue to present barriers to success in our country. Reginald Lewis was not an overnight success, as many of his peers and family would point out. Even as a young person growing up in Baltimore, Mr. Lewis developed a strong work ethic and showed great ambition. His passion to succeed carried him from Baltimore to Virginia State University and Harvard Law School. Although he “mastered the art of the deal,” he did so with integrity and tenacity. This was the man I was fortunate to call my friend, and his untimely death in 1993 left a void in our nation's financial industry that is palpable today. Because of his success in business, the doors to economic opportunity have opened somewhat for other young Americans of color, who now are inspired to dream as big as Reginald F. Lewis dreamed--and to “keep on going, no matter what”--until they achieve their own visions for themselves and their communities. Today, Reginald's name will forever be remembered in our hometown of Baltimore through the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and highlights of his life are also permanently displayed at the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture. Before Mr. Lewis died, he gave back to the institution that gave him the tools he needed to change Wall Street: as a testament to his generosity, The Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center stands at Harvard Law School. To carry on his spirit of philanthropy and his belief that a good education is key to one's success, the Lewis family has continued to “give back” to our society. They created the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, and partnered with others to create the Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business & Law in Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State University, and The Lewis College in Sorsogon City, Philippines, his widow's hometown. In loving memory of their father, his daughters continue to make lasting contributions to American society. For example, Leslie Lewis was recently recognized for her moving one-woman show called “Miracle In Rwanda,” based on a true story of surviving violence, overcoming odds and the power of forgiveness. Christina Lewis-Halpern founded All Star Code, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to equip young men of color with the tools they need to become a new generation of entrepreneurs, who will create even broader economic opportunity for us all. By breaking a barrier in American business, Reginald Lewis also affirmed our core values of diversity, equality, and the liberty to pursue happiness--values that transcend color and race, nationality and gender. As Americans, we all have good reason to rejoice in the successes of our sons and daughters. They will continue to perfect us as a nation and celebrate us as a great people. ____________________

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