Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Tribute to Senators

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

TRIBUTE TO SENATORS -- (Senate - November 20, 2008)


Mr. WARNER. Madam President, today may mark the last day of this session, although I shall not try to make that prediction. However, I would not want this day to pass without availing myself of the opportunity and the privilege to come to this floor and say a few words on behalf of the very dear and valued friends whom I have served with in this Chamber as they depart and go on the road of life to, I expect, in each case great challenges.

GORDON SMITH and I have become friends for ever so many reasons. One, we both love the outdoors. He and his devoted wife Sharon and my wife, we have all been close friends through these years. As I look back, I will always remember GORDON. I remember when I was chairman of the Armed Services Committee and entrusted with the extraordinary responsibilities--along with other committee members, as well as, indeed, every Member of this Chamber--entrusted with those decisions relating to this Nation's Armed Forces who were fighting so valiantly then, today, and for the foreseeable future--I hope the short future--in Iraq.

GORDON and I had many very quiet and private conversations about his deep concerns and convictions. His convictions emanated from the depths of his heart. Politics played no role in his approach to the conflict in Iraq. He was gravely concerned about the loss of life and limb, the image of this Nation, and, indeed, the families of the loved ones who are fighting in that conflict. So I say: GORDON, we had our differences, but I respected your stance. I can see him standing back there as erect as he always was, standing and voting against me and voting against others, but again, drawing on his own deeply held personal convictions. Time will tell and history will tell if I was right or if I was wrong, but I found his counsel, his willingness to listen, his willingness to share with me his most inner thoughts about that conflict a very valuable asset as I and others in leadership positions carried the heavy burden of that conflict. So I am grateful to him. He is a very sensitive man, and he showed that sensitivity every so often as he plunged into the complex issues with regard to health care, the almost insoluble problems--problems that he recognized have to be solved, particularly so that people of lesser means can achieve a measure of health care equivalent to those who have the means can receive for themselves. It is a hallmark of how this man proudly walked his way through life, with a loving wife by his side and the family whom he loves so dearly, and always thinking about those who perhaps have not had the opportunities that he and I and others have had, particularly as it relates to health care.

He also loves the outdoors. A great golfer, we played together from time to time. His skill is far superior to mine in every way. He is a lover of art. We shared our interest in paintings, particularly paintings that had come from Scotland. To have had the friendship of GORDON SMITH is to have shared the life of a wonderful human being, and I thank GORDON for all that he has done for me and for this great Nation, and for his beloved State. I wish him well in his next venture, and I look forward to meeting him along the way.


I have known her for quite a few years. We had a wonderful evening last night where the leadership of the Republican Party--indeed, almost all of the Members of the Republican caucus--came to say not farewell, but to listen to the words of those of us who are moving on and will not be a part of the next Congress. ELIZABETH got up, and she is such a very forceful speaker. She truly speaks from the heart. She has a remarkable memory. She recalled how when both of us were bachelor and spinster, we danced together. My lovely wife, who is a dear friend of hers, kind of looked at me and I winked and said, She was the best. It is just one of her marvelous traits. Talk about glass ceilings: She shattered her share. She has taken on many challenges in the private and public sector, some of which only men have ever had, and performed her duties with great distinction, and always with a quiet sense of what we call southern humility. She is very proud of her roots and her family. How often she has referred to her mother.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University and went on to Harvard for a master's degree and a law degree. Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor. Few women have had that much stamina, conviction, self-confidence to achieve those goals; and then, of course, to have become a U.S. Senator. That was a special challenge because she was fortunate to have as a husband Robert Dole, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, if I can say with a deep sense of humility, one of the best friends I ever had in this institution.

I remember talking to him one time, of course, concerning the events of that particular period, and I said he ought to think about running for leader of the Senate. Oh, no, no. No, I don't think they will ever elect me. Well, this conversation went on for some period of weeks, months, it may have been, I don't recall. Finally, I said: I have so much faith that you can win that election that I would be happy to appoint myself as one of your managers of the campaign to get it. So I took that, along with several other very fine colleagues, both of whom moved on years ago from this Chamber. And he won. He was amazed that he had won. I wasn't. I always recognized the leadership in him. He did a wonderful job as our Republican leader. His portrait proudly hangs right here in the corridor off of our Chamber. I never walk by that I don't just quietly give him a hand salute, because I was a part of the World War II generation, but a very small part, serving only in the final year of the war and always in a training command, ready as a 17-, 18-year-old kid to become a replacement for those serving abroad. Bob Dole was truly one of those who earned the accolade of the ``greatest generation.'' He fought in Europe. He was a young lieutenant and in leading his men in the toughest of battles in Italy, he received what for others I think would have been mortal and fatal wounds.

Because he had such an internal strength and constitution, he survived those wounds and came on to have a distinguished career. As I look back on his Senate days--and they pass so quickly, as did my 30 years--I remember taking trips with him. We went to Russia together, which was the Soviet Union at that time. He was a staunch believer that one day Russia would become just Russia once again and those people would have some measure of a voice in their Government. That did come to pass, and that was an extraordinary trip.

What I best remember is the time of the D-day anniversary. He was asked to speak in Italy, where he had fought. And then, together, we traveled to the Normandy beaches to join the President and others. In the course of that trip, we went back to the very ground on which he was wounded. He walked over to the stone wall that is still there--he remembers it ever so well--where he dragged his badly wounded body to give him a measure of protection until help could come, after which he began that very long, arduous, challenging period of his life. It took years to rebuild that body, but the mind was always there fully intact. But he would once again have an important role serving America as a public servant in the Senate.

I don't know of a husband and wife team who any admire with a greater level of affection than we do Bob and ELIZABETH Dole. So I wish them both very well. She was on our Armed Services Committee. She was a strong advocate for the men and women in the Armed Forces. She had a place in her heart for all who served at Fort Bragg and the Marines' Camp Lejeune, and Pope Air Force Base. But that is further evidence of the deep affection she has for her husband Bob.


Lastly, I turn to JOHN SUNUNU. I confess not to have known him very well. I had met him when he came from the House of Representatives to the Senate. I suppose all of us who have been here for a period of time, having been given that marvelous accolade of an old bull, presume we can judge others quickly. I saw in JOHN SUNUNU a man who would take charge from the day he came, and that he did. From the very moment he walked on the floor of the Senate, he was possessed of his own self-confidence, his own driving, almost a fierce desire to be a leader--a leader in the sense of advocating as a true fighter, advocating for those issues in which he had a belief in the principles that were dear to his heart.

The field of economics is quite a challenge, and with little provocation he would give you a tutorial on the most complex issues as they relate to economics. Indeed, in the weeks before the election, as this body was coming to a close and we voted on such measures as the rescue package and so forth, he frequently stood. When he spoke, our caucus and those around him listened very carefully. I mention this because he exhibited real academic strength at both MIT and Harvard. He did a lot of interesting things in his short life before he came to the Senate, not the least of which was being in the House of Representatives.

JOHN also had a special niche for his interest in education. He wanted to make sure people less fortunate than we would have an opportunity to get an education and that those in the system and struggling are given any help possible to succeed in their own goals of educating themselves. He also held--very unusual--a special regard for the families of law enforcement officers, men or women in uniform, and particularly those families who lost a spouse or loved one in the line of duty.

He is an extraordinary man, JOHN SUNUNU--very sensitive, very thoughtful, a man who loves his State, particularly the rivers of his State. He commended me for leading the charge in my State to remove an old dam that, for 80 years, blocked the migration of a fish from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was challenged to try to remedy a similar situation that existed in his State. I will miss JOHN, his wife Kitty, and his lovely family. Kitty and my wife shared a few words on our departure last night from the dinner.

I am not one who makes many predictions, but I predict this man continues to not walk but run down that road of life, one who makes those twists and turns, climbs those mountains, and crosses those rivers. He will leave his mark on many successful ventures. We will hear from this man not once, not twice but many times again. I wish him well.

Lastly, I simply say to my State two words: Thank you. I thank all those Virginians who have supported me these 30 years. It was a humble challenge for me. I accepted it and I look back on it with the deepest of respect for the trust and confidence you gave me--all Virginians--over these 30 years.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top