You''ll Never Walk Alone Daschle
FROM THE SENATE FLOOR NOVEMBER 19, 2004
SPEAKER: U.S. SENATOR TOM DASCHLE (D-SD)SENATE MINORITY LEADER DASCHLE: Mr. President, like the distinguished Senator from Illinois, I wanted to take a couple of minutes this afternoon to come to the floor to express in the most heartfelt way, as he just has, my profound thanks for the opportunities that I have had to serve in the United States Senate.I congratulate him on his successful career and wish him well in all of his endeavors.
And I'd like to begin where he ended by thanking my family: my wife, Linda; my daughter, Kelly, Eric; our son, Nathan; and Jill and our daughter Lindsay.I want to thank my staff. I actually believe, and I'm sure each of our colleagues share this view, that I have the finest staff that the Senate has ever assembled. They have served me. They have served this institution. They have served the people of our state. And they have served this country with remarkable professionalism, dedication, loyalty, patriotism and commitment in ways that nobody could possibly register.
I want to thank the people of South Dakota, most importantly for the opportunities that they have given me to live my passion for these past 26 years.No senator has ever been more grateful, more fortunate than I have.I want to thank my colleagues for their friendship and their loyalty, their support and the remarkable strength that they have given me each and every day.I congratulate the man on my left, Harry Reid. No senate leader has ever had the good fortune that I have had, to have an assistant like the man from Searchlight. He is a profoundly decent man who loves his state, this institution and his country. If friends are relatives that you make for yourself, then he is my brother.
I want to thank Dick Durbin and congratulate him and Debbie Stabenow and Byron Dorgan and Hillary Clinton for their willingness to take on the leadership roles in the 109th Congress, and I will say this Senate and our Caucus could not be served better.I congratulate especially Chuck Schumer for taking on what may be one of the most challenging of all leadership positions and know that he will serve us well.I can remember so vividly ten years ago when I was elected by one vote. I came to the floor very nervous and filled with trepidation, but a recognition that we had a job to do. And I wanted to use the power that I had just been given wisely and recognize that it was entrusted to me so that we might make the lives of all people better.
Certainly, after I was elected leader, I was asked to come to dinner with a good friend of mine, a man in his 80s whose name was Dick Reiners, from Worthing. Dick was a farmer, had been one of my strongest supporters, most loyal and dedicated friends, one of those people we can all identify with.He asked me to come to dinner that night. And I came out to his farmhouse. We had dinner. I asked him for advice. And he paused and he looked at me and he said: "There are two things that I would hope for you. One is that you never forget where you came from. Come home. Remember us."And then he pointed to some pictures on the wall that I recognized very readily, they are of his grandchildren. He said, "You've held each one of those grandkids, as have I. Give them hope. Every day you walk onto the floor, give them hope."We hugged each other, and I left. Later on that night, I got a call in the middle of the night that Dick Reiners had passed away.
I'd never, ever been given better advice in all the years before or since, and I remember it now.We come to this body with great goals. And our challenge is to become focused on those goals and not lose sight of them with the daily challenges of the battles that we take on as we come to these desks.And two touchstones in particular have helped me remember my purpose.The first touchstone is this desk, the leader's desk. You pull open this drawer, and you see the names of all the leaders carved in it.And it's a constant reminder that we are part of a continuum, a continuum that makes us the heirs and the guardians of a miracle. And that miracle is the ideal that we embrace with the great freedoms that we have sworn to protect.We have a challenge, as we sit at these desks, to do what soldiers have done for 200 years. We either have to fight for this freedom or work at it. And in more than 30 wars one million men and women have given their lives for that freedom.And our job -- our job is to work at it as if we have given our lives too, every day. We have to protect and defend that freedom, and we must pass it on to future generations undiminished.
My second touchstone is a practice that I acquired many years ago, of making it a habit to get into my car and drive without a schedule to all the counties in South Dakota; there are 66 of them.I do it to be energized, to refresh, to touch the land, to watch the sunsets and the sunrises, the majestic beauty of my state. But more than anything else, I do it to be inspired and reminded of how much it is we do here that touches the lives of those that I represent.It is an amazing feeling to drive from one county to the other and to see the results of our work here in this body.
I'm honored and very grateful that there isn't one county in the state of South Dakota that hasn't been touched by our work and our efforts these years that I have been here, touched in ways large and small.We now are an energy-producing state, which means a lot to me. People said that would never be possible. We have little oil, very little natural gas, no coal, but we can now produce 400,000 gallons of fuel that otherwise might be imported.We passed farm legislation that is truly giving our farmers and ranchers hope for a better future. My state suffers from poor water poorly distributed. And our challenge has always been to find a way with which to take the good water and take it to those locations where they have none.And I believe one of the most emotional experiences I've ever had is to watch a family turn on a tap for the first time and cry and embrace each other and pass around a glass and look at it and thank you.
I am honored to have been a part of creating a new future for Indian students who long gave up any hope of graduating in a traditional way, but now can walk through the doors of tribal colleges with a true sense of fulfillment and optimism that they only dreamed of having just a few years ago.The joy of walking into a town and talking to people and being embraced by total strangers who tell you you saved their lives because of something your staff did, recognizing that if it hadn't been for you, perhaps, there would be no life to save.
What an honor. What a sense of gratitude.As leader, I've been privileged to meet some of the greatest leaders of our time -- I believe that Nelson Mandela would probably rank in a class by himself -- Vaclev Havel, Lech Walesa, Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, presidents and kings.I've been inspired by them, but not so much as the inspiration that I've been given by people who are not well-known. Carolyn Downs (ph), who runs the Banquet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, touching lives every day and giving them hope.Louis and Melvina Winters (ph) on Pine Ridge Reservation, who had absolutely nothing to their name and took a burned-out trailer house, rebuilt it and have literally saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of children who had no other place to go, who they found on their doorstep when the word got out that somehow they were the ones to whom children could turn.Chick Big Crow, who witnessed the death of her daughter only to make the lives of young people on Pine Ridge richer with her steadfast determination to build a Boys & Girls club.And there are those like Elaine (ph), who work at 4:30 in the morning at 77 years old. Nine hundred dollars in Social Security and $900 in drug bills, she works at McDonald's to be able to pay for the rest of her living expenses and say she's proud to do so.
And Mary Ann (ph), who works three jobs, has a blood disease and no health insurance, and she says, "I want you to know something, Senator Daschle. I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it. But I'd like a little help along the way, if you can find a way to remember me."They are the heart and soul of America. And they need us now maybe more than ever before.We are each given a number when we come to the Senate. I think it's a wonderful tradition. And I've always been so proud of my number. My number is 1776, the year of our revolution.I think of that number not just because of its unique nature, but it reminds me every day that we are still part of an American revolution.And as a nation, we are making monumental decisions about what kind of country this will be. Will we use our powerful might as a force just for vengeance and protection against those who would destroy us? Or will we use it for progress the world around?Will we recognize that power is not just our arms, but our wisdom, our compassion, our tolerance, our willingness to cooperate, not just with ourselves, but with the whole world?
Will we honor the uniquely American ideal that we are responsible for passing this country on to a generation in the future that is better? Or will we forfeit the promise of the future for the reward of the moment?These are the questions we will continue to face.Several months ago, I came to the floor and I gave a speech at this desk expressing the hope that regardless of how the election turned out, we could continue mightily to find the politics of common ground.I'm proud of those times in this body when we showed our very best.I'm proud of that moment on the Capitol steps when we joined hands and sang.I'm proud of the effort we made after 9/11 to come together to pass legislation that our country so desperately needed, not just for what it said, but for the message it sent.I'm proud of that moment on October 15th when we were target of the greatest biological attack in our nation's history, and again we came together.I'm proud of those moments when we found common ground on campaign finance reform and the farm bill and patient's bill of rights, highways, laws, in some cases, that have not yet become law, but demonstrated that here, collectively, with common will, there is common good.And I know we can continue to find it because, as those instances have demonstrated, we have.If I could leave this body with one wish, it would be that we never give up that search for common ground.
The politics of common ground will not be found on the far right or on the far left. That is not where most Americans live.We will only find it on the firm middle ground based on common sense and shared values.Ten years ago, my wise friend pointed to his grandchildren and asked me to give them hope. Linda and I now have two beautiful grandchildren.I implore my colleagues to give my grandchildren, Henry and Eva, hope and all of the children and grandchildren of this nation.Let us treasure and protect the great freedoms that we have inherited. And let us always promise and commit that we will pass them on undiminished.I said a moment ago that one of my touchstones is my unscheduled driving. And I was telling my colleagues a couple of days ago about leafing through some notes that I constantly make as I make these unscheduled trips.A couple of days ago, I was leafing through one of them, and it noted that I had met with some tribal leaders and had met with a businessman who was trying to find a way to provide child care for his family as well as his employees. I met a couple who wanted to tour the White House.At the end of all of my notes, I made the comment, "Everything was worth doing." The same could be said for my service here. It's had its challenges, its triumphs, its disappointments, but everything was worth doing.
And I'm grateful for every moment.I love history, and there's wonderful history about the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They were rivals. But they respected each other, and that respect grew as they left office and began correspondence that today is some of our most treasured writing.In one letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I like the dream of the future better than I like the history of the past."And so it is with me. I have loved these years in the Senate, but I like the dream of the future .It's with heartfelt gratitude to the people of South Dakota, with great respect and admiration for my colleagues, and a love for this institution and the power it has to make this nation even greater that I say farewell, and look to the future with great optimism, with hope and anticipation.
I yield the floor.