I have been privileged over the last twelve years to represent you in the United States Senate. These have been years of historical significance and global reorientation. An inventory of these times includes: an impeachment and trial of a U.S. President; an American presidential election decided by the Supreme Court; crossing over into the 21st century with an unprecedented attack on the United States on September 11, 2001; the historic changing of majorities in the U.S. Senate in the middle of a Congress; the U.S. invasion of two countries resulting in two of the longest wars in U.S. history (which are still ongoing after seven years); the greatest diffusion of global economic geopolitical power in the history of man; historic swings of stock market highs and lows resulting in the greatest global financial crisis since the Great Depression; record-setting U.S. budget deficits and debt; the first African American U.S. President; and many other historic developments, events and actions.
As I have represented Nebraskans during these turbulent times, I have formed judgments and drawn conclusions about America's future. The strength of any country is its people. Constitutions, governments and institutions are important, for they frame the structure of a society...the boundaries of social behavior. But it is individuals, the citizens, who make the difference in life and in the world. Nebraskans, like most Americans, possess a fundamental common sense predicated on family, hard work, fair play and belief in a better tomorrow.
The challenges that face Nebraska's next generation are not just American challenges but global challenges. Everything we do or don't do has global implications, just like everything that happens around the world has implications for us here in Nebraska. The world today is more dangerous, more complicated, more interconnected, and more combustible than ever before. Regional, comprehensive strategies--rather than individual nation-by-nation compartmentalized policies--will be required to confront our 21st century global challenges. One of America's most immediate priorities is the need to implement a comprehensive geostrategic approach to the broader Middle East spanning North Africa to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This will require employing all of our instruments of power, including diplomacy, trade and economic assistance programs.
The challenges for Nebraska's agri-business community, the anchor of prosperity for our state, are continued innovation and concentration on value-added productivity and expanded trade. These two dynamics are the indispensable requirements for Nebraska's future. World affairs and America's competitive position in the world represent the future for Nebraska. We are now all citizens of a global community underpinned by a global economy. Energy has done as much to integrate world affairs as any one development.
For too long our country has drifted without a coherent national energy policy. A new national energy policy must incorporate our economic, environmental, and national security priorities while developing a wider and deeper domestic portfolio of energy resources. Comprehensive energy reform will help provide America with the resources required to meet our 21st century energy needs and compete in a new competitive world.
The Webb-Hagel GI education bill, signed into law in June, gives the men and women of our military the same educational opportunities that all of America's veterans have received since WWII. By investing in education, the Webb-Hagel bill invests in America's future and helps us to continue building a society worthy of the sacrifices of our veterans.
As I review my years in the Senate, the one most dominant quality of the people I represented was their decency. Whether or not they agreed with me, most of my constituents were courteous and understanding. They knew that the world is complicated, combustible and interconnected and they knew that there are few easy and quick answers. Democracies and great societies flourish through informed and engaged citizens. I will always be grateful for the support, advice and assistance of the people I have represented.
One of the most gratifying things about being your United States Senator has been the opportunity to serve Nebraskans when they needed help. This work is not glamorous, but it makes a big difference in the lives of real people. For this I owe my staff a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Often when I was in a foreign land and people would ask me where I was from, I would respond by saying..."Nebraska, the Center of the Universe!" No one ever contested that definition.
To the people of Nebraska--thank you.