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Public Statements

Tributes to Senator Barbara Mikulski

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, I rise today to honor my colleague and mentor, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and to celebrate her legacy as the longest serving woman in Congress. For over 35 years, Senator Mikulski has proudly served the people of Maryland as a tireless advocate and a selfless public servant. It is my privilege to honor her today.

The great-granddaughter of Polish immigrants, Senator Mikulski grew up appreciating the value of hard work and service. On the weekends she worked in her parents' East Baltimore grocery store delivering groceries to homebound elderly. It was then that Barbara developed her deep passion for helping others.

After earning her master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland, Barbara started a career as a social worker with Catholic Charities and Baltimore's Department of Social Services. An outspoken advocate for at-risk youth and the elderly, she quickly earned a reputation as a fighter and was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1971. After 5 years on the city council, Barbara ran for Congress.

In 1976, Barbara began her first term representing Maryland's Third Congressional District. As one of only 18 women in the House of Representatives, Barbara was a member of a small but mighty group. During her 10 years in the House, she gained a reputation as a fighter, and in 1986 the people of Maryland again chose her to represent them but this time in the Senate.

As one of only two female Senators, and the first woman elected to the Senate in her own right, Senator Mikulski was met with much skepticism. While outnumbered, Barbara's determination and dedication to her constituents shined through. Barbara is a steadfast proponent of greater access to higher education, a leader on the front of women's health, and an unwavering supporter of America's veterans. She is determined to stand up for those who are often forgotten.

A few weeks ago, Barbara shared a touching story that I think exemplifies her character.

When Barbara first ran for Senate in 1986, she had the opportunity to get to know Harriet Woods, who was campaigning as a Democrat for the Missouri Senate seat. Barbara saw the significance of having two female candidates for Senate, and she was certain both of them would win. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be for Harriet Woods, who lost to Republican John Danforth.

On Barbara's first day she was shown her desk on the Senate floor--she opened it and saw Harry Truman's autograph. She had Harry Truman's desk. While she was delighted to have that desk, she knew that it really belonged to the Senator from Missouri and relinquished it. She said that for years she thought about that desk and hoped that it would someday be returned to a Democrat from Missouri.

Twenty years later, on election night in 2006, Barbara watched the election results come in from around the country--and in Missouri, in particular. She said she stayed up late in the night waiting for the final result. Once she learned of the results from Missouri, she knew that the desk that had been accidentally given to her all of those years ago would finally be returned, where it belonged. I am so pleased to know that the Truman desk was shared, if only briefly, with my friend Barbara Mikulski.

Barbara Mikulski is a trailblazer, a role model, and an advisor to the other women in the Senate. Today there are 17 women in the Senate, and much of that progress can be attributed to Senator Mikulski's leadership.

Mr. President, I ask that the Senate join me in congratulating Senator Mikulski on this milestone and thank her for her 35 years of leadership, friendship, and service.


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