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Public Statements

Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FEDERAL RAILROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - September 29, 2008)


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I am very deeply moved by this moment. As a matter of fact, now--this is just a month or so short of 30 years--I can't think of another opportunity or moment in the Senate when I have been so moved and so grateful to a fellow Senator. I have served with five individuals, you being the fifth now, in the Senate to come from Virginia, to form the team we have all had, some different in different ways, but generally speaking, Virginia's two Senators have worked together on behalf of not only the Commonwealth but what is best for the United States.

I remember one time so vividly we stood together here at the desk on a rather complex issue, and there were clear political reasons for us to vote in a certain way. But you turned to me and you asked what I was going to do, and I replied, and you said: That is what I will do because that is in the best interest of the country though it may not be politically to our benefit, or possibly to our State. But that is this fine man whom I finished my career in the Senate with as my full partner and, most importantly, my deep and respected friend. Our relationship, as you so stated, started many years ago--over 30--when we worked with the Navy Secretary together.

You mentioned Vietnam. To this day, I think about that chapter in my life. I remember John Chafee, whom I am sure you recall very well. He and I one time were asked to go down to the Mall. The Secretary of Defense sent us down there, and we put on old clothes and went down, and there were a million young men and women--over a million--expressing their concerns about the loss of life, the war in Vietnam, and how the leadership of this country had not given, I believe, the fullest of support to those such as yourself, Senator, and Senator Hagel, who fought so valiantly and courageously in that war.

In the years I have been privileged since that time to serve here in the Senate--I might add a footnote that Senator Chafee or then-Secretary of the Navy Chafee, and I was Under Secretary--went back directly to the Secretary of Defense and sat in his office, and that was sort of the beginning of the concept of ``Vietnamization'' when we tried to lay those plans to bring our forces home.

But anyway, in the years that passed, I remember so well working with Senator Mathias on the original legislation to establish the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I felt strongly that it would be some tribute fitting to the men and women who served, as you did, so valiantly during that period. I think time has proven that while there was enormous controversy about that memorial, it has in a very significant measure helped those families and others who bore the brunt of that conflict, you being among them.

I thank the Senator from Virginia for working together this short period we have been here. As I leave, I leave with a sense of knowing that for our Virginia, but perhaps even more importantly, for the United States of America, there is one man in Senator Webb who will always do what is right for his country and will fear absolutely no one in trying to carry out that mission. Whether it be a vote or a piece of legislation, or whatever it may be, he will persevere. He showed that on the GI bill legislation.

I was privileged, as I might say, just to be a corporal in your squad on that, but you led that squad with the same courage that you fought with in Vietnam and that you will fight with today and tomorrow and so long as you are a Member of the Senate. I hope perhaps maybe you might exceed my career of 30 years in the Senate, and that wonderful family of yours will give you the support my family--my lovely wife today and my children--has given me so that I could serve here in the Senate.

America will always look down on you as a proud son. I don't know what the future may be, but I know there are further steps of greatness that you will achieve, Senator. I wish you the best of luck from the depths of my heart. I thank you for these words today, similar to words we have shared, both of us, in speaking of our working partnership here in the Senate. I thank you, sir. I salute you.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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