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The Man Behind the Name

Most people have heard of the Peninsula Humane Society's new adoption center in Burlingame. But do you know where the center's name comes from?

I'm in an orange fog. My other passion, besides animal welfare work and family, is baseball, and my team, the Giants, looks like it’s wearing the glass slipper again this year after a history-making series with Cincinnati to gain berth into the NL Championship Series. To the non-baseball fans out there, I’m psyched and drained! There’s that, plus we just pulled off a big, fantastic surprise birthday party for my Mom, who says she hates surprises. More emotion.

So, this week, I want to share a story I’ve had in mind for weeks, months actually. And, it’s already been written. 

Visitors to our new adoption center may not notice our full name: The Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion. It’s a long name and a mouthful. We don’t always use it in print or when we’re talking about our fabulous new home.  If you go the big school in Palo Alto, you won’t see many signs that read Leland Stanford Junior University. And, across the Bay, folks call their school Cal, not the University of California at Berkeley.

The Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion is our center’s full name and we’re proud of the story behind that name. Most locals know Tom Lantos as the Congressman who served our area dutifully and boldly for decades. Some know his history -- that he was the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the United States Congress. Congressman Lantos was respected across both side of the aisle and, revered by people in all walks of life and from all backgrounds, including rock star Bono, who called him “a prizefighter,” whose stamina would make him go any amount of rounds, with anyone, anywhere, to protect human rights and common decency. 

Congressman Lantos extended this passion and zeal to animals, which is one of the reasons our center is named in his and his wife’s honor. The other reason is our key donor and his genuine admiration for Congressman and Mrs. Lantos.  A plaque inside our main entrance reads:

“It is amazing what animals give to people, and it is amazing what depths of kindness they help us find in ourselves.”  – Congressman Tom Lantos

Representative Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to be elected to the United States Congress, represented this community until his passing in 2008. The founder of the Congressional Animal Caucus, Tom Lantos created a rich legacy as an advocate for the protection and defense of animals.  Always by his side (along with Gigi, the dog they adopted from the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA), was Annette Lantos who shares both her husband’s commitment and passion for animals. She served on PHS/SPCA’s governing Board of Directors throughout construction of the Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion. We are proud that this beautiful Center for Compassion carries their name. 

A major gift for this Center in honor of Tom and Annette Lantos was made by Larry Ellison and Melanie Craft Ellison.

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