FAREWELL TO THE SENATE -- (Senate - December 08, 2006)
Mr. SARBANES. Mr. President, over the last few days, a number of my colleagues have been very generous in coming to the floor and speaking about my service in the Senate. I am deeply grateful to all of them, and my wife is greatly relieved that the session is drawing to a close because she fears, if it continues and I continue to hear these excessively praising speeches, I am going to take it to heart and she is going to have to contend with the aftermath of all this praise. I do thank all of my colleagues for their very generous and their very gracious remarks.
As my service in the Senate draws to a close, I am above all profoundly grateful for the trust that the people of Maryland placed in me for the last 40 years--first as a State legislator, then three terms in the House of Representatives, and now five terms in this distinguished body. I think that trust is the greatest honor that any American could hope to have. I am deeply appreciative of it.
I could not have risen to the challenge that these opportunities for public service have provided without the constant support and the wise and reasoned counsel of my family. First of all, and above all, my wife Christine, whose high standards and dedication to our family and to our country are beyond measure and have been a constant source of inspiration to me. The support and commitment of my children, their spouses and their children has been deeply gratifying, and I am indebted to them for the encouragement they have always provided and also, if I may say so, for their astute criticism, on occasion. My sister and my brother and their families have also been, as one would expect, a constant source of strength, and I am deeply grateful to them.
My parents came to this country as immigrants from Greece, both my mother and father, and it was from them that I first learned about the meaning of a democratic society and the potential it offers to move up the ladder of opportunity on the basis of ability, hard work, and conviction. Their memory is still a very powerful influence in my life.
I could not have met the responsibilities of this office without the support of staff who have been ever ready to work at the highest levels of competency, often under great pressure, and to stand up always for what they believe is right. I am deeply grateful for the principled dedication and sharp intelligence they have brought to their responsibilities--whether they were serving on my office staff in Washington or in my offices across the State of Maryland; whether on the staff of the Banking Committee, the Foreign Relations, the Budget and the Joint Economic Committees on which I have served, or the staff of the Senate generally, on whom the efficient functioning of this legislative body depends.
I think it is important to pause from time to time to think of the many men and women--they are sitting right here at the tables and outside the doors and all across the Capitol and in the office buildings--who make it possible for us to function and who bring a dedication to their work that is greatly encouraging. In fact, it has been a source of encouragement and inspiration to me. Working with all of the staff and in particular, of course, my own personal staff, has been one of the great rewards of serving in public office.
I leave the Senate confident that Maryland's representation in this body will be in good hands. For the past 20 years, it has been a privilege to work closely with my colleague from Maryland, Senator Mikulski, who will soon become our State's senior Senator. What a fighter she is for a better America. And what a path-breaker she has been in the course of her political career.
It was likewise a privilege to work with her predecessor in this body, Senator Mathias, with whom I developed a close friendship. Both have been wonderful partners.
It is especially gratifying to know that, in the 110th Congress, BENJAMIN CARDIN will take this seat and be Maryland's junior Senator. BEN CARDIN has given extraordinary public service to the people of Maryland. As a Member of the House of Representatives, he has for 20 years represented our Third Congressional District with great distinction, and prior to entering the House of Representatives, he served for 20 years with equal distinction in the Maryland legislature, including an outstanding tenure as Speaker of the House of Delegates. He is an experienced legislator of the first rank, and he is tireless in carrying out effectively the responsibilities of his office. I know my colleagues will enjoy their work with him in the coming Congress.
My wife and I are gratified that our eldest son JOHN will, in January, be sworn in as a Member of the House of Representatives to represent the Third Congressional District in the 110th Congress.
Throughout my years in public service, I have worked to the limits of my ability to provide the people of Maryland and the Nation dedicated, informed, and independent representation based upon the fundamental principles of integrity and intelligence. I have been guided in this effort by a vision of a decent and just America, based on a strong sense of community and offering fairness and opportunity to all its people. These values and that vision were shaped by my family and the community where I grew up, by the pride my Greek immigrant parents took in their citizenship in their adopted country, and by the high standards of service that community leaders set in a small community on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Salisbury, MD, as I was growing up. Those values and that vision are as clear and as steady today as they were when I first entered public service.
Service in this body has reinforced, many times over, my understanding and commitment to the institutions upon which our system of democratic governance critically depends. I have constantly kept in mind the words reportedly spoken by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. We are marking this year, of course, as my colleagues know, the tercentenary of Franklin's birth. The story is told that, as he came out of the Constitutional Convention, the oldest delegate there, a woman in the streets of Philadelphia called out to Franklin and said:
What is it to be, Dr. Franklin, a monarchy or a Republic?
And Franklin's reply was:
A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.
A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it--the challenge that Franklin uttered that day in the streets of Philadelphia is a challenge each generation of Americans face. All Americans bear the responsibility to rise to Franklin's challenge but none more so than the Members of this body.
I have been honored to serve with Members, past and present, who have embraced the challenge and sought, through common effort, often under difficult circumstances, to strengthen our Republic and to make the promise of America a reality for all of our people.
As I prepare to leave the Senate, I want my colleagues to know how deeply I appreciate their friendship and counsel and how highly I value the privilege of having been their colleague. So long as the vision of America's promise continues to shine brightly in this body, I have every confidence that our Nation will prevail in the face of great challenges and that its future will be assured.
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