May 27, 2009

Majority Leader Hoyer and Denmark

After the American Century

Yesterday I attended a reception for "Steny" Hoyer who is the Majority Leader in the United States House of Representatives. To look at the distinguished silver-haired gentlement, you might think he was the perfect example of someone connected to old patrician money. He wore a blue blazer with gold buttons, gray pants, and a light blue shirt. He spoke well, stood straight and looked right in your eyes when shaking hands, and managed to do that with everyone in the room. As he represents a district in Maryland, it might seem that he is from an old planter family, that arrived in the seventeenth century.

In fact, Steny Hoyer is the son of a Danish immigrant, and his father's name was Steen Høyer. He was visiting Denmark in part to have dinner with twelve cousins who live here. He is also to meet with various members of the Danish government and no doubt pass by the American Embassy. As he noted in a short talk he gave at the reception, the visit is prompted in part by the coming summit meeting on the world's climate, that will take place at the end of this year in Copenhagen.

Those of us meeting Steny Hoyer yesterday, however, were guests of American Democrats Abroad, an international organization that sends delegates to the national conventions of the Democratic Party every four years, and whose members, of course, vote in elections. Representative Hoyer does not really need our votes, as he generally gets more than 70% of the vote in his district and is the longest serving member of the House in the history of Maryland. But he came by and gave us almost two hours of his time, because, as he noted, the Americans who live abroad are the face of the US - not abstractions, not policies, but people who better than any passing diplomat, and whether they like it or not, are the daily representatives of the United States. I have known this for years, but it was nice to hear it from one of the highest elected officials. Americans abroad also try to tell people in the United States how the country could learn from other nations. Hoyer knew that too, and spoke about what might be learned from the Danish health care system.

So all in all, I have disturbingly little to criticize and much to happy about as I reflect on Hoyer's immigrant background, his ties to Denmark, and his deportment yesterday. He should come more often.