TRIBUTE TO SENATORS -- (Senate - October 01, 2008)
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I rise today, as one of those who made the weighty decision not to seek reelection, to share my most personal thoughts--tributes--to my esteemed colleagues who will quietly, humbly, and with a deep sense of gratitude to their States, to our Nation, bring to a conclusion their public service as U.S. Senators.
This is a diverse group of Senators. Whether we hail from small farms, small cities or, in my case, from major metropolitan areas, we bring different backgrounds, different interests. That diversity gives the Senate its strength to serve equally all Americans. What we share, however, is an unwavering love for our States, our country and for the institution of the U.S. Senate.
We aspire to Winston Churchill's quote: ``We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.''
It has been my privilege, over my 30 years in the Senate, to serve with a total of 261 Members. Each, almost, shall be remembered as a friend.
I want to say a few special, heartfelt words about Senator Pete Domenici.
I first came to know Pete Domenici when I arrived in the Senate in 1979. He beat me here by 6 years, and now has served New Mexico with distinction for 36 years. Pete is a veritable renaissance man: baseball player, math teacher, lawyer, city commissioner, senator and, most importantly, a loving husband, father and grandfather.
Senator Domenici made his mark with his leadership on fiscal and energy
issues, especially with his influence in promoting clean, carbon-free, nuclear energy and moving America forward now that we have the reality of an energy shortage and a mission to lessen America's dependence on imported energy. America must move forward by increasing and enhancing its capability to develop nuclear powerplants. At one time in my career, I was privileged to be secretary of the Navy, and during that period, America had, either at sea or in port, some 70-plus naval vessels powered by nuclear plants, and we had a safety record second to none. That can, and will, be duplicated with our growing domestic programs.
A hallmark of my dear friend Pete, whom we sometimes call a ``grizzly old cuss,'' is how he so often expresses his feelings for his fellow Senators by saying, ``I love you, brother.'' Pete, we return that deep respect and affection.
Senator Chuck Hagel has served his native Nebraska and his country with true heroism. When I was privileged to serve in the Department of the Navy during the war in Vietnam, Chuck Hagel, together with his brother, both served with courage in the same Army unit in South Vietnam. He was awarded the Purple Heart not once but twice for his heroism and sacrifice in combat leadership.
His career has spanned the spectrum from public servant to entrepreneur, and this has given him a perspective on the world and global affairs, as well as of Main Streets in the hometowns and cities of his State.
Senator Hagel will be remembered for his efforts on behalf of his fellow veterans and men and women in uniform, together with their families. At one time he served as president of the USO.
One of his proudest achievements will surely be his work with my colleague from Virginia, a former highly decorated marine, Senator Jim Webb, who also served in Vietnam. The two of them started a very tough assignment, and that was to rewrite the existing G.I. bill. And along the way, two ``old-timers,'' both World War II veterans--Senator Lautenberg and I--enlisted in their ranks as cosponsors.
Our goal was to try and give to today's generation of men and women in uniform a level and diversity of benefits that approaches what the World War II generation received from a grateful nation at the conclusion of that conflict. The G.I. bill at that time enabled any soldier, sailor or airman--and there were up to 16 million who served in World War II--to go to almost any university or college of his or her choice, and the funds were nearly sufficient to fund the costs for tuition, room and board, and school books.
But through the ensuing years, the successive G.I. bills were not quite as fulsome; they did not keep pace with the rising cost of education. Prior to the Webb bill, today's generation was barely able to get enough funds to attend educational institutions in their home States, let alone some of America's better-known educational institutions. This bill recognizes the great contributions of our military men and women and increases significantly the G.I. bill benefits. It will make a great difference in the lives of so many of this generation, a generation that I believe is in every way equal to the ``Greatest Generation'' of World War II, for it faces even greater challenges as the uncertainty of threats and the advance of complexity of weapons face them today in a growing number of places worldwide.
I so admire this strong American, Chuck Hagel, who symbolizes ``duty, honor, country.''
In public service, his compass is precise; for he always follows the needle as it points to what course of action is ``best for America.''
I turn now to Senator WAYNE ALLARD, with whom I have been privileged to serve on the Armed Services Committee, who told his fellow Coloradoans that if they chose him as their senator, he would only serve 2 terms. He kept his word, just as he has honorably kept his word to his constituents on many issues. I admire this senator and how well he has served his state.
This veterinarian and small-business owner has been a forceful advocate for military preparedness, for increased access to health care and for cutting spending, leading by example by often returning some of his own office's funds to the U.S. Treasury. In a sense, he sent them back to his constituents.
He was also willing to roll up his sleeves and take on the tough task of overseeing the construction and budgeting, along with other senators and members of the House of Representatives, on the new Capitol Visitors Center. I might add, as a footnote, that when I was chairman of the Rules Committee, I co-sponsored some of the earliest pieces of legislation to provide for this center. Senator ALLARD can be proud of his efforts, which will serve present and future Americans who travel from afar to their nation's capital to learn about their government, the longest-surviving democratic republic in world history.
I vividly recall journeying to Colorado, home State of one of my children, to travel through a magnificent area of the State with his lovely wife and children on behalf of his campaign to get elected to the U.S. Senate. Those trips are memories I have and will keep safely tucked away.
I am proud to say I have come to know each of these fine men. And I firmly believe that this is but yet another beginning in all of our lives, for, to quote Churchill again, ``the chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.''
I yield the floor.