Speaker O'Neill embodies the belief that every American's birthright is the best health care that our country is capable of providing. Throughout his distinguished 50-year career in public service, he fought forcefully to preserve the caring role of government to help those who cannot help themselves. For many Americans, he has been one of the last links to New Deal idealism.
Most recently, the Speaker, affectionately known as "Tip," has touched the hearts and consciences of the American public by speaking candidly of his two bouts with cancer. His compelling testimony has helped the American people redouble their efforts in the battle against cancer.
Mr. O'Neill, who was House speaker for ten years until his retirement in 1986, served in Congress under eight Presidents and worked tirelessly during those years to guide some of the most important national health legislation in history through Congress. In addition to the National Cancer Act, these included appropriations bills for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the reauthorization of the NIH, expansion of Medicare services to the disabled and the elderly, and the creation of three additional Institutes and Centers at the NIH.
For many Americans, Speaker O'Neill has been the personification of Democratic politics in this century. He was born into a working class family in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1912 and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1936. In 1952, he was elected to the US Congress, succeeding John F. Kennedy, where he staunchly fought for improved health and education for Americans, often in bitter partisan debates. He was an early congressional opponent of the Vietnam War and led reforms that broadened participation in the legislative process, tightened campaign spending and finance laws, and set tough new standards for financial disclosure for political candidates.
To Thomas O'Neill, Jr., for his deep commitment to the public service of this nation throughout half a century in elective office, for his legislative achievements in the interest of helping those who cannot help themselves, and for a lifetime of public advocacy in behalf of the disadvantaged, this 1991 Albert Lasker Public Service Award is given.