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Surface Transportation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, that was a beautiful tribute by my colleague.

I come to the floor to just speak for a few minutes while we are trying to figure a way forward on a very important piece of legislation having to do with the transportation infrastructure for our Nation. I know it is a bill that Senator Boxer, as the chair of the EPW Committee, has worked on tirelessly for years along with Senator Inhofe. It is a very important piece of legislation authorizing billions of dollars of programs and projects. I really want to say that I appreciate her leadership so much.

I was so hoping the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership could come together so sometime in the next few days we could have some votes relative to this important legislation and move forward because I know for the people I represent in Louisiana, this is one of our most important infrastructure bills.

I am sure, Mr. President, you have many people in Pennsylvania talking with you about the importance of getting these road projects authorized. At a time when people are looking for jobs and looking for work, this would be one of the bills we would like to pass. Let's all be patient but not too patient, to get this through because it is very important.

While we are waiting for that, I thought I would come to the floor on this very special day, Valentines Day, to talk about a very special kind of love that happens between children and parents. Mr. President, you know because you have been a wonderful leader, along with many others here on the Senate floor, for the idea that every child deserves a protective family and that children do not do a very good job of raising themselves. Governments do not do a good job of raising children. Children need to be raised in a family. Children should be with their siblings whenever possible, raised in the protective arms and under the watchful eye of parents--at least one responsible adult.

Mr. President, you know how heartbreaking it is on every day, but particularly a day like today when we are sending cards to our loved ones. I know the first call I made this morning was to my husband and to my children to wish them a Happy Valentines--people are doing that all over the world today. In fact, I was given some very interesting information.

I had no idea that 180 million Valentine cards were purchased today--that is pretty amazing--200 million roses were sold today, and 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be eaten today. I have not gotten my box of chocolate; I don't know if you have. I am still looking for mine.

But the sad thing is, there are millions of children who are not going to receive a phone call today. They are not going to receive a card. They will not receive a box of chocolates, and they may not even receive a pat on the head or a hug or a word of encouragement because they are orphans.

These are children who live all over the world and in our own country, sad to say. We have about 100,000 children in our foster care system whose parents have had their biological rights terminated because of either gross neglect or abuse, children who are waiting for another family to step up. The Presiding Officer has been very active and successful in passing the adoption tax credit provision that provides some financial assistance to families who are stepping forward to adopt children in need in our own country and around the world.

There are 100,000 children waiting for that Valentines card or that box of chocolate or a hug or just to belong to a family. Around the world, we don't even know what those numbers are. They are overwhelming. We know that in countries that have a high incidence of AIDS, for instance, that causes the death of a parent, particularly a mom--a dad as well--really that leaves sometimes families of eight children, nine children, six children abandoned. Even if a grandmother steps in to try to do that work and she dies within a few years, what happens to these children?

Well, the Presiding Officer, along with many of my colleagues here, I am proud to say, has introduced a resolution today. I wish to thank my cosponsors, particularly Senator Lugar, who has been a terrific advocate as the former chair and now ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Klobuchar; Senator Grassley, who is my cochair on the foster care caucus; Senator Gillibrand; Senator Inhofe, who has probably traveled to more countries--more times to Africa than any Senator in the history of our country, and he should be commended for the work he is doing on that continent; and Senator Blumenthal and Senator Boozman, who have been outstanding advocates in their own right for different aspects of family policy. We are proud to submit a sense-of-the-Senate resolution. Of course, this does not have the force of law, but it most certainly expresses our views as a body and does have impact on policymakers around the world, nonprofits, the faith-based community, the private sector, and, most importantly, governments around the world.

People would say: What does the Senate think about this, Senator? You say this, but what do the other Senators think about the fact of adoption or international adoption? Do they agree with you that children belong in a family? Because it is sad to say that there are some places in this world that think children can grow up fine in an institution or they can grow up fine without parents. Now, we don't think that in the United States. Not only do our hearts and our minds and our faith tell us otherwise, but the science also says that children who grow up in a family of loving nurturing, particularly in the early years--we know this is true raising our own children; I know this as a mother--every year but particularly those early years get the confidence and the affirmation of kindness and gentleness from a parent.

I have been learning more about this lately, not only how important it is, but what I have been learning about is what the science says when children don't get that. The term that the American Academy of Pediatrics just released calls it toxic stress--toxic stress on the brain of an infant. They underline how even one caring and supportive relationship with an adult in those early years is so important that it can offset the damaging neurological and physiological affects of stress on children. I know adults have stress because I have it myself. What I didn't realize was that infants--the tiniest little infants--can have toxic stress that affects the development of their brain and their ability to function.

I hope our country will realize how important it is for us to do a better job of connecting orphans and abandoned infants and neglected children of all ages--not to put them in an institution, not to turn them out on the street, not to allow them to be trafficked by drug cartels or sex traders or people who will exploit them for other purposes, but to put them in the arms of a loving family, connecting them to a loving and responsible adult.

Of course, we try to keep children in their own biological families when possible, but if war or disease or death separates them, why don't we think that it is the most important thing in the world--because it is--to connect those children to a loving family?

That is what this resolution says. It is just as simple as we can say it on Valentines Day: For kids who will never get a kiss or a box of chocolates or who haven't yet, there is still hope that we can give them a protective family, that we can protect these sibling groups. If government would work just a little bit smarter, not even necessarily throwing that much more money at it, although I find we can always use a little extra, but just working smarter and better and working with the churches, working with faith-based communities around the world, we can connect children to families. That is all this resolution says. It expresses the sense of the Senate. I hope we can pass this by unanimous consent.

So when I travel around the world, as I do often, when I am in Guatemala or when I am in Uganda or when I have been in places such as Russia and in China, and the Senators there or the members or the people, the leaders, ask me, ``What do the other Senators say? Do they believe this as well?'' I can say, ``Absolutely.'' I am going to carry this resolution with me, and I will show it to them because all this resolution says is that every child in the world deserves a protective and loving family.

So I don't know if Valentines Day will be perfect for many children. I hope my children have had a wonderful day today. But we can work a little harder to try to do our best to make sure they have at least one caring, nurturing, loving adult in their life. It would make a world of difference in our school systems, in our health care systems, in our criminal justice system. It will make our communities stronger. It will make our States and our Nation stronger and ultimately the world. I know the Presiding Officer believes that.

I thank the leadership for allowing me to come to the floor and speak on this today, and hopefully all of my colleagues will vote favorably for this Senate resolution.

I yield the floor.


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