NOTE: Sam Webb spoke along with others, including Leo Gerard at a memorial in Pittsburgh for United Steelworkers founder, and longtime Communist leader, George Edwards.
I am honored to be here and to be able to say a few words about George ... my dear friend and comrade.
Let me begin by expressing my heartfelt love and solidarity to his partner Denice and family. You feel the loss the deepest, but be assured that all of us gathered here and many more around the country are profoundly saddened by George's passing as well as inspired by the spirit and legacy that he leaves behind.
I also want to thank President Gerard and the steelworkers union for hosting this memorial at your headquarters. There is no better place to celebrate George's life.
This union meant everything to him. Up until his health made it impossible, nothing made George happier than to volunteer his labor at this building. Here he could do his part in fighting to advance the goals of this great union.
George was proud of every union fighting the good fight against corporate greed and right wing extremism, but he was especially proud of this union and its leadership which he felt was breaking new ground in the fight for the interests of our nation's multi-racial, male and female working class.
In fact, if he were with us now, he would be singing its praises in making possible the great victory that working people and their allies scored with the reelection of President Obama for a second term.
During the nearly 35 years that I knew George he always amazed me at the many hats that he wore - gardener, wilderness enthusiast, photographer, camper, chef, sports fan, environmentalist, avid reader, mentor to young workers, and sculptor ... but the main hat that he wore so well and so long was that of a union activist against corporate power. He punched into the class struggle at an early age and only punched out when his heart stopped beating.
Some ask: where did all that get up and go come from? To me the answer is simple.
His nearly inexhaustible source of energy even as an old man came from his belief that his cause was just and righteous. It came from his belief that the 99 per cent are the real creators of wealth and would do a better job running the country than the 1 per cent. It came from his belief that a united working class had the power to bring the multi-national corporations to their knees.
And it came from a belief that there was enough wealth, natural resources, and technological know-how ready at hand to make it possible for every inhabitant on our fragile planet to live a decent and secure life, not having to worry about what tomorrow may bring.
As I mentioned, George would have been thrilled by the election outcome. At the same time he would have reminded us that our work isn't yet done.
He would be the first to say that the right wing and corporate America have been defeated, but will live to fight another day. Thus the road ahead will be bumpy and contentious, beginning with the fight over how to solve our fiscal problems, which are real, but not as real as the jobs crisis, which, George would tell us, should be the nation's top priority.
George lived a long, eventful, and fulfilling life. Most of us have some regrets as we look back over our lives, and I'm sure George had his; things that he would have done differently if he could rewind the clock.
But what stands out for me is that he tried to do the right thing; he had a big heart; he always had the back of working men and women; and he loved his family, his neighbors, his union brothers and sisters, his comrades, and his country.
He will be missed, but he will live on in our hearts as we continue to fight for a more just, equal and peaceful world.