Nicholas recently wrote about the death of Congressman Tom Lantos on his blog. Although I had heard that the congressman had been diagnosed with cancer, I had not heard of his death until today. I met Congressman Lantos while I was interning in Washington D.C. during 2000. I was very impressed with him at the time, and have continued to be as he's served in the House of Representatives.
Congressman Lantos, a Hungarian native, was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress. Because of the atrocities he witnessed during the Holocaust, he became a champion for human rights and civil liberties. When Congressman Lantos announced he would not seek another term (because of his cancer diagnosis), he stated, "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."
One of my most memorable moments in D.C. involved Congressman Lantos. I had gone to his office to meet up with a fellow intern. We had planned to go to dinner and to a free Millennium Stage concert at the Kennedy Center. We changed our mind when Congressman Lantos asked if the two of us wanted to join him and his wife for a performance from the Capitol Steps on Capitol Hill. Of course we said yes. We walked with him to the Capitol (even using the "Members Only" elevator) and sat with him at his table. It was awesome!!
Although I have become jaded by a lot of politicians, it was refreshing to meet a member of Congress who had overcome the odds and dedicated years to help change the world for the better.