Biden praises Dianne Feinstein as defender of American values at San Francisco memorial | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

The body of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein arrives at City Hall Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in San Francisco. Feinstein’s casket was then displayed at City Hall. Feinstein, who died Sept. 29, served as San Francisco mayor. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Joe Biden praised the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday as a dear friend and a woman of deep integrity who fought to protect what was important to America: freedom, civil liberties, security and the U.S. Constitution.

“She was always tough, prepared, rigorous, compassionate. She always served the people of California and our nation for the right reasons,” Biden said in recorded video remarks played at Feinstein’s memorial outside San Francisco City Hall.

Roughly 1,500 invited guests were at the private service, where two large screens showed photos of Feinstein over the years. Guests seated in white chairs sweltered on an unseasonably hot day as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight team soared overhead, occasionally interrupting speakers with the roar of their jets.

The flight demonstration squadron is in the city as part of Fleet Week, an annual San Francisco celebration started by Feinstein in 1981 when she was mayor.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were scheduled to deliver remarks, along with Feinstein’s granddaughter, Eileen Mariano, who will speak for family.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor, and former Gov. Jerry Brown were in the audience.

The service marks the end of two days of events in the city that launched Feinstein’s political career.

On Wednesday, hundreds of mourners streamed into City Hall to pay their respects, honoring Feinstein as fearless, smart and the glue who kept the city together after two shocking political assassinations.

Many said they had never met her but wanted to honor an indefatigable public servant who fought to level the playing field for women, members of the LGBTQ+ community and racial minorities.

Feinstein died early Friday at her home in Washington, D.C., of natural causes, said Adam Russell, a spokesperson for her office. She was 90.

Feinstein was one of California’s first two women U.S. senators, a job she first won alongside Barbara Boxer in 1992, dubbed the ” Year of the Woman.”

Feinstein spent much of her career in the U.S. Senate but will be known as the forever mayor of San Francisco, a role she inherited in tragedy. She was president of the Board of Supervisors in November 1978 when a former supervisor assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, at City Hall.

Feinstein, who found Milk’s body, became acting mayor and won election twice to serve as mayor until 1988.

Georgia Otterson, 76, a health care administrator, said Feinstein wasn’t as politically liberal as she would have liked, but the late mayor earned her respect with how she kept the heartbroken city together.

“We were all mourning together, holding candles. If memory serves me, Joan Baez sang,” Otterson said of an impromptu march that night from the historically gay Castro District to City Hall. “And she held us up.”

As a centrist Democrat, Feinstein was criticized by people on the left, including for her support for the death penalty, and in her later years, for working with Republicans. But the straight, white woman largely earned the gratitude of a city that celebrates its racial and sexual diversity.

She steered San Francisco through the HIV and AIDS crisis, bringing attention to an epidemic ignored by President Ronald Reagan. She also secured federal and private funding to save the city’s iconic cable cars from death by deterioration.

Feinstein led the city as it played host to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. Another San Francisco tradition — “Fleet Week” — was started by Feinstein in 1981, and this year’s annual celebration of air shows, naval ships and military bands is dedicated to her.

While Feinstein’s career sent her to Washington, she remained deeply involved in the affairs of San Francisco, the city where she was born and raised. She often called her successors — including Newsom — to complain about potholes or trash and to offer advice and encouragement.

Breed recalled looking up to Feinstein when she was a Black kid growing up in public housing and playing the French horn in a middle school band that performed regularly at mayoral events.

“She was so proud of us and she said so, and she took the time to talk to us, express how amazing we were and to remind us that we were her band,” Breed said at a news conference the day after Feinstein’s death.

Mourners Wednesday expressed their pride in Feinstein.

“She kept moving on up. I was proud of her, very proud of her,” said Dorothy Hudson, 81, a retired federal government employee. “She was very kind, very smart. She opened doors up to let people know, ‘You can do it.’”

San Francisco native Cari Donovan placed a bouquet of red and pink lilies and daisies on the floor before the casket. She lingered, crying quietly over a woman she never knew but who was so important to her life.

“She championed and fought for the rights of so many people,” Donovan said. “I’m so grateful. And I really just wanted her family to know how much she meant to me.”

The social worker said she talked to her 28-year-old daughter about the battles Feinstein fought so that younger generations of women could dream bigger. “She was a lioness.”

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