REMEMBERING PETER G. PETERSON; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 73
(Senate - May 07, 2018)

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[Page S2512]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                     REMEMBERING PETER G. PETERSON

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, last month, Peter G. Peterson passed away 
in his home in Manhattan at the age of 91. He was a rare figure in 
modern American politics as a true public citizen asking politicians to 
be fiscally responsible.
  Peter George Peterson was born Peter Petropoulos in Kearney, NE, to a 
Greek family. His parents came from southern Greece without any money. 
George, his father, took a job as a dishwasher for the Union Pacific 
Railroad. His mother made wine in his basement, which she sold to 
people. George eventually opened a Greek restaurant in Kearney and 
changed the family name to Peterson. At age eight, Peter would work the 
register at this place. The family never had much wealth.
  Almost everyone knew him as Pete. His family was so frugal that Pete 
and his brother took turns using the same bath water on Saturday 
nights. The Great Depression taught him lessons that he would message 
to the country for the rest of his life: Never spend more than one 
earns, even in the worst of times.
  Pete developed into a business wonder. He finished top in his class 
in high school, attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and 
Northwestern University. In the 1950s, Pete was an advertising 
executive for the legendary McCann Erickson agency before he was 30. 
Within a decade, he became chief executive for Bell and Howell 
electronics.
  Pete answered the call for service in 1971, becoming the White House 
Assistant for International Economic Affairs and, eventually, Commerce 
Secretary for a brief period of time for President Nixon, but he was 
never a White House insider. Partisans distrusted him because he was 
too comfortable with Democrats. He left a year into the post before 
scandal engulfed the White House.
  He was nearsighted and colorblind, but he had a clear vision of where 
he thought the country should go. Pete built a career that made him one 
of the few captains of business stretching into public life. He was 
chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations for 22 years and led 
government commissions and advisory bodies. Pete also helped found the 
incredibly successful Blackstone Group and became chairman of the 
Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He was a member of President Bill 
Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform as well.
  Pete's leadership as a fiscal watchdog might be his greatest 
achievement. Since the 1970s, Pete has challenged leaders of both 
parties to address the country's dangerous fiscal path. He launched the 
Institute for International Economics in 1981, which became the 
Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2006. Pete was the 
founding president of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which included 
former Democratic Senator Paul Tsongas and former Republican Senator 
Warren Rudman in 1992 to advocate for generationally responsible fiscal 
policy.
  The national debt is not a partisan problem; it is an American 
problem. Pete wrote several books challenging both parties to come 
together and fix it. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which he founded 
in 2006, has kept the conversation alive and pushed put the country on 
a sustainable fiscal path. Members of both parties and all walks of 
life have come to foundation events to participate in providing 
solutions to long-term fiscal challenges. I was at a few of them.
  Pete's life is a reminder that we need to work together to serve 
future generations. He is survived by his wife, Joan Ganz Cooney; and 
five children, John, Jim, David, Holly, and Michael Peterson; a 
brother, John; and nine grandchildren.

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