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Public Statements

Commending Coleman

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARTINEZ. Thank you, Madam President.

Madam President, I am here this morning to speak about my good friend and former colleague, Norm Coleman.

Norm and I first met when I was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Norm had been the mayor of St. Paul--I had been the mayor of Orange County, FL--and immediately we established a bond. We kind of spoke the same language, if you will. We understood each other. We had both been involved in the milieu of urban politics as well as the challenges and responsibilities of being a big city urban center mayor.

I remember our discussions about the problems of the cities and about the opportunities. Norm had been very successful in creating a new arena for the hockey team in St. Paul, and this was, I know, a tremendously proud thing for him, an accomplishment he had.

Little did I know our paths would again cross here in the Senate. I remember being in Miami at a radio station and there was a TV monitor on the screen during the election of 2002, and I remember it was a debate between Norm Coleman and former Vice President and Senator Walter Mondale. I remember being detained there watching him and thinking what a tough spot he landed in, what a complicated race it had been through the tragic death of Senator Wellstone, and how proud I was of him, of this fellow whom I did not know that well but whom I had met on a couple of occasions, and he was handling himself quite well. It turned out he was successful in that race.

Then, only a couple years later, we were reunited here in the Senate as colleagues. We both immediately found one another on the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate. Norm, at that time, was the chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. I found in Norm someone who was uncommonly knowledgeable about the Western Hemisphere and carried out those responsibilities with a great sense of urgency.

Norm and I traveled in Latin America together. We traveled to Chile and to Colombia and perhaps a couple of other places where we conducted meetings trying to advance the United States agenda, promoting the rule of law, fighting against narcotrafficking that is such a blight upon our cities and our communities, and trying to improve the conditions of democratic rule in the region.

I have no doubt that if Norm Coleman were in the Senate this week, he would have been side by side with us as we have watched closely the events in Honduras and have tried to promote a reasonable, fair, and democratic outcome to that country's troubled current moments of their living.

He was the original sponsor of efforts to build stronger relations with our neighbors to the south. I had the opportunity, as I said, to travel with him. Part of our traveling took us to Colombia where a tremendous challenge lies ahead for the people of Colombia as they fight for the rule of law and against the narcoterrorists in that country. I remember our meeting with President Uribe that he and I had.

Norm was also very committed and concerned about a stable Middle East, about advancing the peace process in the Middle East, but also about the security of Israel. He was a very strong voice for a strong United States-Israel relationship. He was a clear voice on the need for us to stop and not allow Iran to develop a capability that is nuclear and that would invite the opportunity for Iran to carry out the stated wishes of destroying the state of Israel. He was a friend of Israel.

He was also a friend of Cuban freedom. I remember when Norm was first in the Senate. He came to the Senate 2 years before I did. During that time, I was still Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I heard that Norm Coleman was traveling to Cuba. I said to Norm: As you travel to Cuba, as a now sitting Senator, I hope you will remember there is a large and growing dissident movement on that island and they deserve the same recognition you would have given to Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel had you been traveling to Eastern Europe in the 1980s.

Norm heard my voice and sought the opportunity to meet with the Cuban dissidents while he was on the island. This came as a great surprise to his host because the Cuban Government frowns upon visiting dignitaries meeting with anyone who would present the potential for a democratic opposition to a country that has not known democracy now for half a century.

But, in any event, Norm Coleman met with them, and not only met with them but while in Cuba made some very strong statements about the need for a democratic solution to the Cuban situation, about the need for the people of Cuba to have an opportunity to live in freedom, and he spoke highly about the dissidents. Needless to say, that is the last time Norm Coleman has been invited to visit Cuba by the Cuban Government. But I knew then I had found a friend who clearly understood the difference between freedom and oppression and who would clearly stand on the side of freedom.

Norm, as has been expressed here this morning, with great grace and courage, fought through a very difficult election, and that is in addition to the ups and downs of all that went on in the recount and the legal challenges that followed.

Norm, with great grace, moved aside. When the time was right, and when the legal challenges had been exhausted, he did so with the grace and dignity that is the hallmark of Norm Coleman.

Norm and Laurie are my friends. I wish them the very best as they go forward in their lives. I know they will find other opportunities to be of service to the people of Minnesota and to the people of the United States, and I might daresay also to the people of Florida because Norm has a great affection for my State, where he has spent a lot of his time--I would daresay particularly in the cold and bitter months when maybe it is a little more pleasant around my neck of the woods than it would be in Minnesota.

But we always welcome Norm to Florida. We hope he will continue to visit us frequently, where he has a multitude of friends and a multitude of people who love him, who appreciate him, and who thank him for his great service to our Nation and our State, and who thank him for the great concern he has demonstrated about people who are oppressed, as well as those who seek to live in freedom and peace without threat from their neighbors.

Madam President, I thank you and yield the floor.


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