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Public Statements

Celebrate Safe Communities

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CELEBRATE SAFE COMMUNITIES -- (Senate - September 30, 2008)


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, it is sometimes somewhat breathless to be seated on this Senate floor knowing that just maybe 48 hours remain of my career in the Senate. I shall remain in office through early January, but I tell you, it takes me a few minutes to assemble my thoughts. But in your case, I would say: Look at the many things we have worked on together.

This fine Senator is so proud of the Naval installations in her State. We visited the shipyard together, indeed the facilities at Portsmouth. The ships are made there. The ships are berthed there. It has been home to the U.S. Navy, I imagine, from the earliest days of the formation of our Colonies and the first of the ships we had.

I hope what I am about to say is fully understood. But those of us--I have had some modest career in the Navy in my lifetime--but we always refer to the ship in an affectionate way, as if it were a female. Indeed, it does protect the sailors at sea with its steadiness and its seaworthiness, and we often refer to the ships as the fighting lady.

I say to the Senator, I would hope that you would accept that as an accolade, the fighting lady from Maine. We have watched you under the toughest of circumstances. One time I remember working with you and your tenacity was fierce, and you really sort of turned back a lot of my thoughts which I thought were so important. But it worked out in the end. You prevailed and that was the development of the legislation which reconstructed, reformulated so much of our intelligence community. That was truly a masterful accomplishment on your part.

Again, the reason I am a bit breathless is when I first came to the Senate, these 30 years ago, there were not any ladies in the Senate at that time. We were joined in my class by Nancy Kassebaum from Kansas, a wonderful lady. Believe me, she very quickly established her own stature. We all admired her tremendously as a very strong Senator, which she was throughout her career. But from that small beginning commenced the transformation of the Senate in many ways--from the one lady--she certainly was a fighting lady, too--to where today we have many. As a matter of fact, we do not even count them anymore because they just have gotten into the full fabric of the Senate and everybody is just totally unconscious to that except, I guess, people like myself, with a wandering eye, constantly taking a look at the dress one day and compliment my dear friends.

But on a serious note, we have had a marvelous, strong friendship and working relationship, and I shall miss you dearly, as I will this institution. But I do leave with the thought that you are one of the great strengths of this institution which will be called upon, as it is in this hour. The Nation calls upon this body to save it.

I was looking last night, as I was trying to drift off to a rest, at the famous poem that was written, ``O Ship Of State.'' Do you remember that poem? And America today is looking to its Congress like few times in history. ``O Ship Of State''--I have that poem on my desk.

At this time, I ask unanimous consent to have that poem printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

O Ship of State
(By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
`Tis of the wave and not the rock;
`Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest's roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee,--are all with thee!

Mr. WARNER. I see the Senator is desiring to speak.

But those two things remind me that this great ship of State will sail on and you will be at the helm. I wish you the best.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank the gracious Senator from New Jersey. I appreciate those remarks. Although it has been short-lived, we have had a good, strong working relationship; not always on the same side on several issues, but that is what democracy is all about. I thank the Senator.


Mr. WARNER. No. I have been very honored to be on the floor in connection with certain tributes, and I just by coincidence am here. But I am hopeful that the distinguished chairman could maybe tell us, the Senate--I am quite anxious; I have been here throughout the day, most of it--what is the state of the resolution of this very important problem that faces our Nation here today?

Mr. DODD. Well, I can tell you, my friend, the majority leader, Senator Reid--I know from having met with him earlier today--is in constant consultation and discussions with the leadership of the Republican minority of this body as well as the Democratic and Republican leadership of the other body, the House of Representatives, to determine when and how we can go forward on the legislation that we crafted both here and there over the last 2 weeks to respond to this economic crisis we are in.

I am proud to have been involved, and I am sad to have been involved. Normally, we craft bills and we take pride in the fact that we are solving a problem, and I hope we are in this case. But I am fairly confident we will be able to get to another vote and that the other body will bring up the matter as well. The order of all of this is being discussed as you and I stand in this Chamber. No final conclusions have been reached about that, but I know people are working hard to determine how best to proceed forward.

The last thing we need is to have this not work again. We better decide whether we are serious about this. This is a difficult vote--I would not suggest otherwise--but it is an important one. I know that those who cast votes yesterday are having some second thoughts about the condition they placed us in and are trying to find a way to get back on track again. So I am very optimistic we can do that. I know the White House is now engaged much more aggressively than it has been on this issue, which I welcome. I know the leadership of the House is also working on this. I do not want to predict things with any great certainty, but I am quite confident we are working in the right direction and we should end up with a very positive result within the next 24 or 48 hours.

Mr. WARNER. I thank the distinguished chairman of the Senate Banking Committee for those remarks. I found the work product that you and others produced and which was distributed yesterday to be of great value. I was prepared to move forward and add my voice in support. But I yield now, of course, to the circumstances as the consequence of the House's action last night.

I think the leadership on both sides is very diligent; that is, the leadership--our Senate distinguished majority leader, Senator Reid, and Senator McConnell, the minority leader--is working on this, and I do hope we can bring this to some sort of a resolution tomorrow.

You know, it is interesting, as I sit here to talk to the Senator from Connecticut, our friendship goes back almost the full 30 years I have been in the Senate. And last night, when I went home with a bit of a heavy heart for fear that this situation was of such consequence as to almost every single American, I was trying to reflect, as I so often do, on other chapters of history which confronted our great Republic and other nations, because this is a global problem, as the chairman knows. I put together some remarks that I thought something of giving on the floor at some point in time. But I went back to a very famous letter. And the reason I raise this, I think my good friend, the Senator from Connecticut, and I have discussed many times the chapter of history during World War II and the role your father played at the conclusion of that war in terms of the Nuremberg Trials. You yourself have written eloquently on this period. So just by coincidence, I went back and I thought about the year 1941 and, in particular, January of 1941 when Great Britain at that time was undergoing the full wrath of all of Hitler's military might. It was one of the darkest hours in the long history of the British Empire.

You recall that Roosevelt penned a short note, a letter, to Churchill, and it was hand delivered to Churchill by Wendell Willkie, who was coincidentally in London. Roosevelt chose the first five lines of that famous poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

THOU, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!
Humanity, with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

And I simply say to those, the leadership of our body and the leadership of the House, they might read that because that is how serious this problem is. It may have some parallels. That was a war, but in a sense we are in an economic titanic struggle to regain, in the United States, the confidence among our citizens--I am not talking about Wall Street or Main Street, I am talking about every citizen--a sense of confidence and how we must henceforth conduct our business for the better, the greater betterment for all Americans, whether they are rich or poor.

I just thought of that stanza. I found a great deal of encouragement and fell off to sleep thinking maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Thus far it seems to me it has been productive.

I thank the Senator. I enjoy always talking history with my friend from Connecticut.

Mr. DODD. I love that as well. My colleague from Virginia, during moments of stress and strain over the years, when it looks as though all is lost and we could never come back together, he has pulled me aside in one corner or niche of this building, and I can hear him say it over and over again, in the words of Winston Churchill: Never, never, never give in. We are at one of those moments.

Mr. WARNER. The Presiding Officer is a man who is a great student of history. We shared a few words earlier today about this situation. I think I best yield the floor so you can get down to it. I wish you great luck in all of your work, and good fortune, because it is so vitally important not just at home but indeed for the whole world.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my friend. I must say to you that John Stennis, if I had to name five individuals in this institution--I think I have served with 272 Senators--John Stennis would be one. He was a magnificent man. As a matter of fact, I have his old desk. In his final days here he called me in one day and he said: I want you to have this desk. Of course, it was a long story, but there it is. I still have it in my office. He was a great teacher.

Scoop Jackson was another great teacher. I hope some of the young Senators, that maybe they have learned from you and me. Who knows. But in those days, those were men of formidable strength intellectually, command presence, and they were great teachers. Stennis was foremost among them all.

I thank my dear friend for his comments.

Mr. DODD. I thank my friend for his distinguished career. There are plenty of references to that in the Record. I thought I would share at least a couple of personal anecdotes.

Mr. WARNER. We finally solved the submarine problem by, I think you built part of the ship--we call them ships now rather than boats--and we built the other part. They are put together in the yards of the two. They are sailing the seven seas today. That program is running on, and our sole production of submarines now is in Connecticut and in Virginia, putting the parts together.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I think sometimes Senators should be seen and not heard from. That might be this moment for me. I am deeply moved and humbled by your comments, my dear friend and leader of this body, at this time. As I was talking with Senator Dodd about history and how both of us have an interest in the great events of our Nation, we talked about the challenges facing America tonight and how fortunate we are to have leaders such as yourself and Senator McConnell on this side of the aisle to lead our Nation out of this situation. I am glad we didn't dwell on those heavy matters. We touched on the light ones as we talked together. How well I remember you as the chairman of the committee; you remember we worked on batteries. For some reason, the lead battery was the center focus at that time.

Mr. REID. I say to my friend, now it is a big issue. We tried a long time ago.

Mr. WARNER. That is right. But we got some money and put it into research of batteries, which hopefully might be contributing in the future to our deliverance from the problems we have with reliance on foreign oil and greater use of our motor vehicles operated by natural gas. But I could go on.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, could I interrupt my friend and say one thing? I wish to say this because I try not to be envious. Envy is not anything that is good, but I have to admit that I am so envious of your hair. I mean, for a man--I mean, I am envious. I have to acknowledge that. It is great. I wish I could get up in the morning and go to the mirror and have that.

Mr. WARNER. I am about breathless at the moment, but if you will spare me a minute to tell a story about that. My mother lived to be 96 years old and she bequeathed this to me. But I can tell you a number of times calls come into my office and people will inquire and ask for the Secretary, not me, and they will say my husband has a bit of a problem, but it can be solved if the Senator would say where he gets his wig. So I am not--that is true. It has happened about a dozen times in my 30 years. So that is one of the great things----

Mr. REID. So you will forgive me of my envy?

Mr. WARNER. Yes.

Mr. REID. Thank you.

Mr. WARNER. But I thank my distinguished leader. I also wish to say, on behalf of my wife, the deep affection our two wives have.

They have been privileged to serve the responsibility of shepherding the annual event for the First Lady. When that occurred in my house, everything stopped. I mean all engines, everything. The total focus for weeks was that luncheon. I think my wife succeeded your wife.

Mr. REID. That is right.

Mr. WARNER. My wife learned the meticulous manner in which your wife planned that event. But the wives play a vital role in this institution. While we sit here and have what I call the good old democracy mind and we argue between each other in the quietude of the evening, our wives will put us together and all is forgotten. That is the strength of this institution.

I thank my good friend. I do not deserve the rich remarks he made, but I accept them in the sense that he made them.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for his very thoughtful remarks. Our relationship has been one that included both wives. I recall an event we attended, and immediately the next morning my wife received from you a book which she, being an avid reader, stayed in that book for the evenings that went on for a week or so. That is the way this great institution works. It is not all on the floor before the television cameras.

Senator Durbin is a strong leader, a tough adversary. I wish to say how much I have enjoyed working with you through these years. I wish you and my other colleagues well because you have a great challenge in the next few days or two. We have to solve--and you will be part of that leadership team dealing with it, along with colleagues on this side--we have to reach the right solution to restore America's confidence in the lifeblood of this Nation; namely, its economics.

I thank the Senator. I wish to add that my mother very proudly always claimed Illinois as her State.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, how thoughtful to raise that, not in the context of this Senator but Senator Webb. I have great respect for him, particularly his military career, which is extraordinary, where mine is of far less consequence. I joined him. He was the leader on that legislation. I always said I was the sergeant in the mere ranks of his platoon. But it did, and it enabled me to add one more chapter to what I have tried to do so much: to repay to the current generation, the men and women who very bravely wear the uniform, all the wonderful things that were taught me by previous generations of men and women who wore the uniform from whom I learned so much throughout my entire career and public life.

That is landmark legislation, I say to my good friend from Illinois. It is something that is well-deserved for the men and women and their families. I commend you for bringing up that about our good friend and colleague, Senator Webb.

I yield the floor.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I wish to express my appreciation, as always, to my good friend. This man will leave his mark in this institution. I tell all that with a great sense of pride, as will the Presiding Officer. I have come to know him and work with him on many occasions.

I yield the floor.

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