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US Senator Dianne Feinstein Eulogy for Bob Hope

St. Charles Borromeo Church
Los Angeles, CA
August 27, 2003

Your Eminence (Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles), President and Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Reagan, General Myers, Mrs. Hope and family:

I am very honored to be here today, to pay tribute to one of the truly legendary and enduring figures of the 20th century: the irreplaceable Bob Hope.
I would like to offer my sympathy to his children and grandchildren, and above all to Dolores, his partner and wife of 69 years.

Bob Hope could do it all, with such ease - sing, dance, act, and of course, make us laugh.

Just think, at 21, he was hired by Fatty Arbuckle, launching a career that took Bob from Vaudeville to Hollywood, from radio to the movies and on to television.

He virtually invented the modern comedic monologue - Charlie Chaplin was an early admirer - and I for one have been a big fan ever since listening to his radio show as a child.

But perhaps most of all, Bob Hope is remembered as a great patriot, who for fifty years entertained America's Armed Forces, often at great personal risk.
In 1941, at California's Marsh Field, he began worldwide tours, from Italy to North Africa, from the South Pacific to Lebanon, and lastly in Kuwait, when he was a sprightly and irreverent 88.

I can think of no better way to describe how much his visits and performances meant than in the words of soldiers themselves, often wounded or dying, to whom Bob Hope brought hope and laughter.

19 year-old Steven Lamar, from Hoboken, New Jersey, wrote in 1944, during World War II:

"Dear Bob: I'll never forget some of the thoughts that ran through my mind when you walked out on that ‘thrown-together' stage on the dusty field near the airport in Algiers. I could see our living room at home, and my mother sitting by the radio laughing at one of your gags. For a few seconds, I was back home and that did me more good than anyone will ever know."

Richard Webb, who was 21 at the time, remembered Bob's visit to sun-baked Sicily, during the Italian campaign of World War II.

"It was here," he said, "in a hospital ward that men, who had casts all over their bodies, laughed and roared after each joke. Then, though it was a chapel...eager looks written all over their faces, waiting for your voice to make them laugh, again."

Bob often joked about tough audiences, but his ability to make those in great physical and emotional pain laugh was remarkable.

The novelist John Steinbeck described one of Bob's visits to a hospital in 1943. In the New York Herald Tribune Steinbeck wrote:

"Bob Hope and his company come into this quiet, inward, lonesome place, gently pull the minds outward and catch the interest, and finally bring up laughter out of the black water."

Steinbeck goes on to describe how, during a song by Frances Langford, a soldier broke down in tears, and then Frances also began to cry and couldn't go on.

It was then that Bob walked down the aisle between the beds and with a straight face said: "Fellows, the folks at home are having a terrible time about eggs. They can't get any powdered eggs at all. They've got to use the old-fashioned kind you break open."

"There's a man for you," Steinbeck concluded. "There is really a man."

Such invaluable service to his nation earned Bob the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded to a civilian.

The award was given to him by President Kennedy, who called Bob "America's most prized ambassador of goodwill throughout the world."

In his last act in office, President Johnson bestowed on Bob the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that, "With his gifts of joy to all the American people, he has written his name large in the history of our times."

Several years ago, I co-sponsored legislation naming him an Honorary Veteran for his humanitarian services to the U.S. Armed Forces, the award of which he claimed to be most proud.

And just recently, to commemorate another extraordinary milestone in the life of this extraordinary man - his 100th birthday - I was privileged to introduce legislation in the Senate that created the Bob Hope Patriot Award, which President Bush signed into law on May 29, Bob's birthday.

Bob knew every American President from FDR, and was close to both Presidents Reagan and Ford.

On the desk of the Oval Office, President Truman kept under glass the one-word telegram Bob sent him following his dramatic upset of Tom Dewey. It read: "unpack."

When another President - Abraham Lincoln - died in the house across the street from Ford's Theater, his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, standing at Lincoln's side, said "Now he belongs to the ages."

The same is equally true of Bob Hope.

He is not America's - he is the world's.

He belongs not to our age, but to all ages.

And yet, even though he belongs to all time and to all peoples, he is our own, for he was quintessentially American.

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