This holiday season members of Congress successfully wrapped up an omnibus spending bill, passed other legislation, mailed out the last letters, and headed back to our districts to spend the season with friends and family. I would like to take a moment in this end of year wrap-up to pause and recognize the hardworking Congressional staff.   These passionate, dedicated individuals are the lifeblood of this institution and we members owe them a great deal.  Their passion for the issues and dedication to helping create a better nation is often unseen and usually unrecognized by the broader public.  

Behind every member is a tight-knit staff team. I am deeply grateful to my whole team, but would like now to thank one in particular: Lauren Smith, my communications director.  Lauren is dedicated, passionate, and incredibly hard-working, serving as my voice and ambassador to the media.

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Lauren is a media liaison extraordinaire.  From the political Capitol Hill papers to Silicon Valley’s business journals, and from technology magazines to Korean media cultural papers, Lauren helps me select the best words to express my thoughts and feelings effectively for the public to hear and understand.

Lauren thrives on following her passions despite the sacrifices. That characteristic has fueled her journey across the country multiple times, from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill.  Her unabating dedication to progressive ideals is second only to her independent spirit.  Her keen communications skills and doggedness serve her well, bringing exciting opportunities and necessitating many a quick decision to say “yes” to packing up everything to go on to the next challenge.  

Lauren got her feet wet fresh out of undergrad from Cal State Fullerton with the All America PAC during the 2006 midterms and worked her way up to become the DNC’s statewide communications director for Indiana during the 2008 presidential election.  Lauren proved herself time and again, handling tough situations and high pressure through a decade on the Hill as press secretary for Rep. Cuellar (D-Texas), communication director for Rep. Matsui (D-Calif.), and communications director/deputy chief of staff for Rep. McNerney (D-Calif.). After serving as communications consultant for John Walsh’s bid for Montana’s vacant Senate seat, Lauren served as the Deputy Communications Director for Sen. Walsh (D-Mont.) as well. I’m proud to have been able to recruit such a talented communications staffer.  Lauren made herself at home swiftly, becoming a major asset to the entire staff - teaming with each staff member and making everyone’s communications more effective.  I am sure that I will receive comments from Lauren regarding this OpEd that was done without her watchful eyes and crafty editing!

These same qualities overflow into her personal passions.  The eating habits of a Hill staffer aren’t always the most healthy, but Lauren, as our resident DC foodie, often shares the delicious meals she has cooked, complete with mouth-watering photos posted on her blog, ”One If By Food”. Her style and ability to smile through anything must come from her background competing in professional ballroom dance.

Lauren brightens up the office with a quick wit and cheery nature -- even in the midst of deftly handling a multi-national press release you can hear her giggling with office mates. Whether an absurd statement by an elected official or a particularly funny cat meme, her laughter is infectious.  She is also deeply caring and considerate.  She is the first to ask how someone is doing and to offer to assist them in completing vital work on deadline. She’s very practical and understands how hard all of my staff and I work; she isn’t afraid to hit some ideas with a dose of reality when it would take too much of my or my staff’s time.

Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart.

A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite “Honda Moment” is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile.  Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.

I’d like to close with a simple message. Lauren: Merry Christmas. I hope it’s absolutely wonderful. My staff and I love you; we all think you’re an amazing colleague and an even better friend. 

And thank you and happy holidays to all of the hardworking dedicated “Lauren Smiths” working on Capitol Hill.  Your passion, dedication, professionalism, and excellence are the lifeblood of Congress.

Honda represents California’s 17th Congressional District and has served in the House since 2001. He sits on the Appropriations Committee. Honda’s staff and other Capitol Hill friends join in the good wishes for Lauren Smith, who is currently hospitalized.