Editor’s note: U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, who will retire in January, delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor Thursday. The following is the text from those prepared remarks.
Mr. President, I rise today for one final time to address the Senate. My remarks will be brief. Actually, I just want to say one thing – thank you.
I wish I could say it with the eloquence of one of my first friends in the Senate, Senator Dale Bumpers, who told his stories and always made his case pacing these aisles like a lion, tethered to his specially-made, extra-long microphone cord — or with the breadth of vision of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, who sprinkled his classic Mother’s Day or Fourth of July speeches with memorized poetry and his vast command of history – or with the fire of my dear friend, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who would bellow to the rafters his passion for the America that could be and call on the Senate to make it so.
What a privilege to serve with such men – and so many other men and women who have made up this body over the last 24 years. You have been friends, advisors, sometimes adversaries – always worthy – and inspirations. Thank you.
My colleagues in this body are, to a man or woman, thoughtful, hard-working patriots. We don’t always agree — understandably. But every Senator I have met is pursuing a course that he or she believes is best for the nation and advocating policies that he or she believes are best for their state. And when I have come to any of you with my ideas about what’s best for the nation or for my state, you have listened respectfully, counseled wisely, and helped when you could. Thank you.
The Senate is often referred to as a family, and that is certainly how I feel about my staff, many of whom are gathering today to say our good-byes. Perhaps what I will miss most on leaving the Senate is coming to work every day in Washington and in Wisconsin with such a bright, creative, and dedicated group of people – constantly focused on what’s best for our nation and Wisconsin, challenging and pushing me to be the best Senator I could be. You cannot be a cynic about the future of this country when you work in an office like mine and have the privilege to interact with generations of intelligent, civic-minded, and loyal staffers. So I thank them all – for making a hard job, not just easy, but enjoyable and for serving the people of Wisconsin tirelessly and exceedingly well.
My final thanks go to the extraordinary people of Wisconsin. Thank you for letting me pay back in part the great debt my family owes to the state that took in my immigrant mother and father and allowed our family – including my brothers Sidney and Allen and our sister Dolores – to grow and thrive. Thank you for taking a chance on me in that first election 24 years ago and renewing my contract three more times. Thank you for trusting me with your problems and concerns, your hopes and dreams.
Please know that we have listened to you carefully and fought for you always. Every Wisconsinite who wanted it – Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, farmer or city dweller – got full consideration in my office. And whether it was arranging a Capitol tour, finding a lost Social Security check, pushing for legislation to reform the federal dairy program, or reviving the shipbuilding industry in Marinette, Wisconsin – every Wisconsinite had an ally and an advocate in us.
It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve these 24 years in this hallowed institution, alongside my fellow Senators and my staff, and as the voice of the people of Wisconsin. For that, I thank you all one last time, and I yield the floor.