Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I rise to pay tribute to a fallen pillar of the movement to extend equal opportunity to thousands of African-American and minority businesses throughout our nation: Congressman Parren J. Mitchell.

With the passing of former Congressman Mitchell on May 28, 2007, our country has lost one of its legendary advocates for minority business owners, a giant who knew that the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity would be decided in America's board rooms as well as its voting booths and lunch counters.

Congressman Mitchell fought with heart, grit, integrity, and determination to level the playing field so more minority firms could do business with the federal government. He didn't just serve as Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, he served as Congress' conscience. He also was founder and Chairman of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Congressman Mitchell's life was an incredible story of courage and resolve. He became the first African-American graduate student at the University of Maryland when he challenged the University's policy of segregation. He was the first African-American elected to Congress from the State of Maryland. He was the first African-American elected to Congress who lived below the Mason-Dixon line since 1898. And he was the first African-American to Chair the House Small Business Committee.

Congressman Mitchell's work on that Committee has left a legacy that is as long and impressive as his commitment to equal opportunity for all of our nation's citizens. Many of his policies made it possible for the rise of the minority business community. In 1976, he attached an amendment to a public works bill stipulating that cities and states receiving federal grants had to award ten percent of the money to minority-owned businesses. That year he also managed to pass a law requiring contractors to document their goals in contracting with minority-owned companies. In 1980, he was able to successfully amend the Surface Transportation Assistance Act to require ten percent of the money to be set aside for minority businesses.

On May 22, 2007, in the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship we held a hearing to look at the state of minority small businesses. And while the witnesses at the hearing revealed that there have been many gains for minority businesses, they also revealed that there is still more that needs to be done. I believe that the accomplishments of those who testified at the hearing would have made Congressman Mitchell proud. I also believe that the testimony about discriminatory practices that still confront minority businesses would have confirmed for him as it did for me that there are still more hills to climb.

The challenge now is to climb those hills by creating opportunities for minority businesses that will do justice to the memory of Congressman Mitchell. As we move forward in the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the best way to do that is to pass laws that expand opportunities for all Americans who have been shut out or left behind.