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Congress Honors Country Music Legend Merle Haggard

Jul 11, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) spoke in the House floor in favor of H.R. 1988, a bill sponsored by Rep. McCarthy to name a Bakersfield post office after country icon Merle Haggard.

Full remarks are below, or watch online here.

“Mr. Speaker, you take a look back on American history. You can see figures standing tall who spoke for the everyday working man. Following the long tradition of Whitman and Twain, Merle Haggard was a man who knew America instinctively because he lived an American life. It wasn’t a life of the movies, but it was all more compelling because it was all more real. That is the reason they called him ‘the Poet of the Common Man.’

“Merle Haggard didn’t have it easy. At the height of the Depression, his family searched for opportunity out west. Merle grew up with little means and lived with a past of mistakes and regrets.

“So he sang. He sang in ‘Branded Man’ of the stigma of prison, crooning ‘I held my head up high, determined I would rise above the shame.’ He sang in ‘Working Man Blues’ of the grind of doing his duty to his family, ‘working as long as my two hands are fit to use.’ And he sang of his roots, not of power or wealth or status, but of pride in being ‘an Okie from Muskogee’—a place of leather boots, football, and Old Glory.

“He found success and—more importantly redemption—in the music he shared with his country.

“Now, the Bakersfield Sound changed country music, and it’s a testament to Merle Haggard’s talent that when you listen to hits from ‘Branded Man’ to ‘Mama Tried’ to ‘Big City’ to ‘Working Man’s Blues’ or even to ‘Okie from Muskogee,’ you not only hear the hardship and wisdom of a well-lived life, but you can hear the roots of so much of the music we still listen to today.

“For a man who went from Bakersfield High to San Quentin prison to the Country Music Hall of Fame, a building doesn’t seem like much. But I hope that when people pass by the Merle Haggard Post Office Building in downtown Bakersfield, they will remember an icon of our community, an artist who never backed down, a man whose honesty about his own failings and willingness to pick himself back up inspired music that lifts our spirits and feeds our souls.

“Merle Haggard’s name will live on in this building, but his spirit will live on in his music that calls us to do the best we can every day God gives us.”