Rex Buffington

Harold C. Keller Public Service Leadership Award: 2019

Rex Buffington II, retired from a job he has held for over 30 years. A former press secretary and speech writer for the late Sen. John C. Stennis, Buffington established the programs and operations of the Center which provide training and forums on leadership skills and development for those in public service. Congress created the Stennis Center in 1988 with a mission to help those in Federal, state, and local officials and employees become “more effective and efficient in performing their public duties and develop their potential for accepting increased public service.”

Recognizing Rex Buffington

Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of Rex Buffington, for his life's work as executive director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership since it was established 30 years ago. I again thank the gentleman from California for yielding me this time. I am joined here tonight by my fellow board members of the Stennis Center as we speak about the retirement of the executive director, Rex Buffington. For more than 30 years, the Stennis Center has taught, inspired, and trained our Nation's young people through programs such as debate, women's leadership initiatives, and Truman Scholars. Thanks to the leadership of Rex from the very beginning, their work has had a powerful impact on our Nation's leadership, mobilizing a generation of dedicated public servants and community leaders.

I am happy to share with Rex not only our southern roots--he is from Mississippi and I am from Alabama--but our mutual love for debate and our dear friend, my former high school debate coach, Coach Billy Tate. Coach Billy Tate, my high school debate coach at Selma High School, was instrumental in the creation of the John C. Stennis Novice Speech and Debate Tournament. I know that my life's journey would not have been possible if it had not been for my high school debate experience. I know that the Stennis Center's debate program is just one of the many ways young leaders across this country are being equipped with the invaluable tools necessary for leadership.

Rex knows that it is the people behind our democracy that makes democracy work. He has been quoted as saying: ``No government, regardless of its history or structure, can be better than the people who make it work.'' I agree with Rex. When we have programs aimed at attracting thoughtful, committed, and honest leaders to public service, we get good policy in the end. While I am disappointed to see Rex's time as executive director come to an end, I know that his leadership has set the groundwork for another 30 years of success in attracting young people of character to public service. The impact that Rex has had has been enormous, and I thank him.

Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Harper).

Mr. HARPER. Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the United States House of Representatives and the Board of Trustees for the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership, it is with great gratitude that we honor Rex Buffington for his many years of distinguished public service. Rex Buffington was appointed executive director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership when the center was established in 1988 to promote and strengthen public service leadership in America. As executive director of the Stennis Center, Rex has been responsible for development and delivery of programs aimed at attracting young leaders to public service and providing current public service leaders with opportunities to further develop their leadership skills and capabilities. Participants in Stennis Center programs range from students in high school to Members of Congress. Prior to his work at the Stennis Center, Rex served as press secretary to Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi for 12 years. As the Senator's chief spokesperson, speechwriter, and communications director, Rex coordinated activities and strategies aimed at achieving the Senator's mission and legislative agenda. I am so honored to serve as chairman of the board of trustees for the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership. I have seen what Rex has done firsthand, and it has been a privilege to work directly with him. Rex is an encourager of every person that he comes in contact with. He knows better than anyone the legacy of Senator John Stennis who served Mississippi and our Nation with great distinction for over 41 years as a U.S. Senator, ultimately becoming President pro tempore. President Reagan once called the Mississippi Senator ``an unwavering advocate of peace through strength.'' Senator Stennis had a passion for fostering leadership and promoting public service, two objectives that Rex has carried forward during his time serving as executive director. The USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier, the only one not named after a President, has the two-word motto adopted by Senator Stennis that he had: Look Ahead. Senator Stennis would be proud of the work that Rex Buffington and the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership continue to do, and he would be proud of the great work that Rex has done. We are all very proud of the great work that he has done over these years of distinguished service to Mississippi and to our Nation. We congratulate him on a job well done, and we wish him the best as he looks ahead.

Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Alabama (Mrs. Roby).

Mrs. ROBY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his generosity in yielding a few minutes for this very important moment. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute as well to a true public servant, Rex Buffington. Rex has dedicated so much of his professional life to supporting leaders in this country, most recently, as you have already heard, as the executive director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership, where he has served admirably since the Stennis Center's establishment in 1988. After many years of encouraging new leaders and supporting existing ones, Rex is retiring. His tireless efforts will be greatly missed, but I know I speak for many who know him in saying we are proud of him and we are confident that his next chapter brings more wonderful milestones. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rex. His work for the Stennis Center has positively impacted American leaders from all generations and walks of life, from high school students to the Members of Congress who walk these halls today. I know this firsthand because I am one of those Members that he has impacted. I wish Rex, John Gavin, and Catherine great success in the road ahead. He will be missed, but his impact will be felt for many years to come.