An Emotional Kerry Offers Farewell Advice To His Senate Colleagues
By Edward Donga
BU News Service
WASHINGTON – In his last speech as a member of the Senate, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. reflected on his 28 years of service on Capitol Hill – while offering advice to his colleagues on overcoming the gridlock that has plagued the Senate during his final years there.
“I do not believe the Senate is broken,” Kerry said during a sometimes emotional speech on the Senate floor. “There is nothing wrong with the Senate that can’t be fixed by what’s right about the Senate.”
With battles over controversial legislation such as gun control and immigration looming in Congress, Kerry’s nearly hour-long speech floor speech often sought to strike an optimistic note for the road ahead. But he also highlighted what he believes are the causes of the legislative gridlock that has plagued the Senate during his final years.
“I believe there are three most significant challenges that have conspired to bring about a dangerous but reversible erosion in the quality of our democracy: the decline of comity, the deluge of money, and the disregard for facts,” he declared. He advised his colleagues that part of the solution to lay in increased efforts to communicate, both with one another and their constituents.
Kerry choked up as he remembered the pain of first encountering the lack of communication on Capitol Hill – more than 40 years ago.
“I came to the National Mall in 1971 with fellow veterans, who wanted only to talk to our leaders about the war,” said Kerry, who then was prominent in Vietnam Veterans Against The War. “We knocked on door after door in Capitol Hill, but too often couldn’t get an audience with representatives.”
Kerry recalled how he and his fellow veterans were ignored by all but a handful of legislators, with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. – who later was Kerry’s Senate colleague for a quarter of a century – one of the few who responded..
“I saw it firsthand that our political process works only when leaders are willing to listen to each other, but also everyone else,” said Kerry.
Kerry again choked up as he asked his fellow senators to do the most with the time that they have in office.
“Standing here at this desk that once belonged to President Kennedy and to Ted Kennedy, I can’t help but be reminded that even our nation’s greatest leaders and all the rest of us are merely temporary workers,” he said. “I’m reminded that this chamber is a living museum, lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.”
Kerry paid homage to his home state during his speech, quoting at length not only from the late President Kennedy – who represented Massachusetts in the Senate form 1953-1961 – but from another Massachusetts famous senator, Daniel Webster, as well.
But what Kerry said that what he would miss most about serving as a senator from Massachusetts was helping the many exasperated constituents who came to his office for help when other options for dealing with the federal bureaucracy had failed.
“I believe it is the honor of a lifetime, an extraordinary privilege, to have represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate for more than 28 years,” Kerry said.
“What I have seen and heard and learned in traveling across our country as a senator from Massachusetts has prepared me more for my travels to other countries as secretary of state than any travel to any foreign capital,” he added.
Kerry’s speech came just hours after Gov. Deval Patrick announced that the governor’s former chief of staff, William (Mo) Cowan, would be named as Kerry’s interim replacement. Cowan will serve until a June 25 special election, which will determine who will occupy the seat for the balance of Mr. Kerry’s current Senate term – through the end of 2014.