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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, our side of the aisle has allowed me until 11:45 to speak.


Mr. President, I am on the Senate floor for a lot of reasons at a lot of different times, but today is extremely unusual. I wish to spend the time talking about how important staff is in Washington. We are only capable of doing and accomplishing what we accomplish because we have staff here to help us.

I have had the great fortune over the last 3 1/2 years to have someone on my staff who has displayed character virtues like none other I have seen in my career. She will be leaving my staff. Her name is Katy French. She has a master's in public health from Harvard. She has been on the front lines of HIV/AIDS since the epidemic came about. She worked for both Senator Gregg and Senator Brownback. The characteristics about her that make her great--in Oklahoma we would say her ``plow runs deep.'' She is well-rooted in the principles of liberty.

What she has done with that principle is recognize that if you are free, and you have liberty and yet you don't spend your life helping other people, the liberty is for naught. So she has been a great example to me and my staff over the last 3 1/2 years for her tireless dedication--which all on our staff have--and for bringing with that well-rootedness, that deep-rootedness, the ability to challenge a Senator, to tell us what she thinks even though we may not like it, to bring forth ideas that aren't in the conservative realm yet are humanitarian, great ideas, the ideas to help people. The people who know Katy French know she means business, but that business has always involved taking care of people.

One of the first things she did as my staff director on the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee was set up a hearing on malaria. What we know is millions of people today in Africa are being cured of malaria because we, in fact, changed that program. The oversight hearings we held changed the direction. I know the Presiding Officer of the Senate now, the Senator from Ohio, is very much interested in that topic. Through her work, millions of Africans are alive today who would not otherwise be alive because the program was changed where we actually made a difference.

I can't think of any greater tribute to an individual who comes to work to help us in the Senate than to measure the value of what they have done in terms of the lives that have been made better, made healthier, and have forgone a serious disease and dread. She also conducted more hearings in our subcommittee than any other committee or subcommittee in the entire Senate in the 109th Congress. Most staff directors of committees know--and subcommittees know--how hard it is to put together and hold hearings.

Probably the greatest tribute to Katy is the fact that she didn't stop with that. When the Pope was here in his visit this last year, he called on America's youth to reach out and make a difference. Katy is in the middle of her career. She has made a big difference in the Senate for three separate Senators. She has made a big difference in terms of the PEPFAR legislation--the original legislation and the legislation that we just passed and the President has signed. She listened to that call to make a difference. So it is both a sad time and a happy time for me to know that Katy is joining a religious order to further her life in giving to other people.

She is foregoing money. She is foregoing material things. In fact, she will be in an order that was established some 30 years ago associated with the Catholic Church out of Argentina that she will dedicate the rest of her life to, making a difference--a real difference--in other people's lives.

She will be focusing on troubled urban youth. Her characteristics and multilingual talents will lead her in that direction. To me, the greatest compliment you can have as a Senator is to have a staff member leave for such a higher calling. For Katy and all of those who work in our office and on behalf of the Senate, and as a reflection of the rest of the staff of the Senate, we thank you for your efforts on behalf of freedom.

I thank you, Katy, for your efforts on behalf of our office and what we are trying to do for the people of Oklahoma. Most importantly, I thank you for your grasp of faith and what it means to truly give up your life so that in the words of that man from Nazareth: ``He who is last will be first.''

Katy French has lived that example. We will miss her.

I thank the Senate for the time.

I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


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