At high noon on New Year’s Day, before a standing-room-only crowd at Glen Cove City Hall, former Congressman Steve Israel passed the torch to his successor on Capitol Hill, Tom Suozzi, in a moving and bittersweet ceremony.
The new congressman’s father, Joseph, wasn’t there to see him sworn in, but Tom made his family proud!
With a constituency that runs from Suffolk County’s north shore into Nassau County and then continues into Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside and Whitestone, the overflowing crowd reflected the diversity of the district.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz warmly welcomed the people there to celebrate new Congressman Suozzi and spoke about Queens’ diversity. She went on to introduce local pastors who reflect the many faiths celebrated in Suozzi’s district. The spiritual leaders represented St. Rocco’s Church, the Chabad of Brookville, Calvary AME Church, BAPS Hindu Temple and the Islamic Center of Long Island.
As I looked around the packed room, the diversity of those in attendance reflected the district and, interestingly, the new congressman and religious leaders all shared the same powerful message: love thy neighbor!
Babylon’s Sal Valentinetti was invited to sing, but the TV star claimed he had a sore throat from all the gigs he’s had the past few weeks. After a brief speech, he finally did sing one verse of “That’s America to Me.”
Finally, it was time for Congressman Israel, who opted not to seek re-election in the Third Congressional District last year, to offer some advice to Suozzi. I loved how he generously spoke of Suozzi’s background, first as Glen Cove mayor and later as Nassau County executive. Israel remarked that Suozzi’s job was always listening to his constituents, even on something minor like a pothole in need of repair, and making sure that the job gets done.
That, Israel said, is what being in Congress is all about: always helping those in need, from the disabled child to the needy senior, and listening to the people.
Israel shared that his greatest moment in Congress was taking the oath of office, swearing to protect and defend the Constitution. He then handed over to Suozzi his copy of the Constitution and the Rules of the House that had sat on his desk for 16 years while in Congress.
When he took the microphone, Suozzi spoke extemporaneously in describing the challenges of General George Washington as he faced defeat. All seemed lost after suffering defeats in New York; even his chief of staff turned against him and tried to have him replaced. With his depleted army, he was forced to retreat, but Washington was determined to persevere. He would lead his Continental Army across the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas Night of 1776, surprising the British Army and winning the Battle of Trenton, a major turning point in the American Revolution.
It was when Thomas Paine, the renowned patriot and author of “Common Sense,” wrote that “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Suozzi told his rapt audience, “American history has its ups and downs, but we will never give up our values. We will work together to solve problems and aid the people in need.”
What a profound way to begin a new year and a new era. I offer Congressman Suozzi my best wishes for his great success, which will be ours as well!
Happy new year from my children to all of you!