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Public Statements

Tribute to Senators

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

TRIBUTE TO SENATORS -- (Senate - September 26, 2008)


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I regret that I am not able to be in the Senate today to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, Senator PETE DOMENICI of New Mexico.

Throughout my years in the Senate, I have been honored to serve with some of the brightest, most committed elected leaders in our Nation. But Senator Domenici stands out in particular. He has the unique ability to rise above partisanship and find real solutions to real problems.

He comes to every issue with a deep knowledge and desire to improve the lives of the people of New Mexico and the Nation. It has been a special honor to work with him for nearly 36 years, including many years on mental health issues. We both share a deep commitment to those issues because we know the immense toll that mental illness has taken on beloved members of our families, his daughter Clare and my sister Rosemary.

PETE and I are on opposites of the aisle in the Senate, but he has never approached mental health issues in a partisan way. Instead, he thinks of himself as an advocate for mental health reform and basic fairness for all our citizens.

Through PETE's skillful guidance and leadership, Congress has made major progress in breaking down the walls of discrimination against the mentally ill, especially in the judicial system and in education. On reform in mental health care, it has been a long, difficult battle for over a decade, but Senator Domenici's will and dedication has never wavered.

Years ago, young PETE played baseball for the Albuquerque Dukes, which was part of the old Brooklyn Dodgers farm system. Back in those days, disappointed Dodger fans coined the phrase, ``Wait 'til next year'' after coming up short of a championship season so often.

Now, at last, because of PETE, Americans suffering from mental illness may not have to ``wait 'til next year'' any longer. We are now closer than ever to finally passing mental health parity and putting an end to the longstanding shameful practice of discrimination in health insurance against persons with mental illness. On this issue, Senator Domenici has been absolutely relentless and absolutely brilliant. We could never have made it this far without him.

My only regret is that at the signing ceremony, when President Bush signs this landmark bill into law and looks up and hands the signing pen to Senator Domenici, we will all be sad that PETE is retiring from the Senate this year. He has been a continuing source of hope and inspiration to me and to millions of other people and their families across the Nation. He has made a truly extraordinary difference in the lives of families struggling with mental illness. It has been a great honor to serve with such a talented and dedicated public servant as Senator PETE DOMENICI. I will miss him very much in the years ahead.


Mr. President, I wish very much that I could be here in person today to pay tribute to the extraordinary career of my friend JOHN WARNER. I know that when we return to the Senate in January, all of us on both sides of the aisle will miss the decency, thoughtfulness, commitment, and friendship of our outstanding colleague from Virginia.

We often speak about the high value of friendship in the Senate, about the importance of sustaining it despite the strong political and philosophical differences that often erupt between Senators, and about the way it sustains us in times of personal and political crisis. I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way, and I am sure we all cherish our friendship with JOHN WARNER.

The Senate will not be the same without him. In many ways, he epitomizes the words of Shakespeare, that we should ``do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.''

JOHN's life is proof that individual persons make a difference for our country, if they have the will to try. From the time he enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 during World War II, to joining the Marine Corps in 1950 after the outbreak of the Korean war, to his service as Secretary of the Navy, and to his brilliant career as a Senator representing the people of Virginia, JOHN WARNER has demonstrated a commitment to public service that few people in the history of this Nation can match.

As my brother, President Kennedy, once said: ``Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, `I served in the United States Navy.' '' It is been a special privilege, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, to serve with JOHN WARNER, particularly during his years as chairman or ranking member of the committee. JOHN deserves immense credit for his contributions to our country, and America is a stronger and better Nation today because of his life's work.

Perhaps more than anyone I know, Senator Warner understands that we are Americans first and members of a political party second. Throughout his 30 years in the Senate, he has consistently demonstrated an all-too-rare willingness to reach across the aisle to achieve results for the American people.

When the partisan passions of the day become heated in this Chamber and threaten progress on fundamental issues, we always know that JOHN WARNER is available to help find the way forward--even if it costs him politically. President Kennedy would have called him a profile in courage, and I agree.

It is no secret that John and I don't agree on everything, but even in times of disagreement, I have never questioned that his position was the result of deep thought and his special wisdom and experience. Our Founders would regard the Senate career of JOHN WARNER as a shining example of the type of person they envisioned should serve in this body of our Government.

I am sad to see him leave, but as John and his wife Jean look to the future and the new challenges and possibilities that lie ahead, we know that he will always be available to answer the call of service, and we are very grateful for the opportunity to have served with him. We will miss him very much.

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