United States Senate
 GO
United States Senate Senators HomeCommittees HomeLegislation & Records HomeArt & History HomeVisitor Center HomeReference Home
United States Senate
People
Origins & Development
Historical Minutes
Exhibits
Special Collections Highlights
Paintings
Sculpture
Graphic Arts
Oral History


  
 
 
Address by Vice President Walter Mondale, September 4, 2002

Photo of Vice President Walter Mondale
Vice President Walter Mondale

View the Video
Introduction
Address

Introductory Remarks by Senator Tom Daschle

My colleagues, distinguished visitors here in the Old Senate Chamber, those watching on C-SPAN, welcome to the ninth in our series of leader lectures.

Our friend, Mo Udall, dedicated his book, Too Funny to be President, "to the 3,000 Members of Congress, living and dead, with whom I served for nearly three decades." One doesn't have to work in the Senate long to understand what he meant.

From the moment we first set foot on the Senate floor, most of us are powerfully aware that we are links in an extraordinary chain of history. When we open our desks on the floor, we see carved or penned in them the names of those who served in this body before us. Here in this historic old Chamber, we can almost hear the voices of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay and John Calhoun. They and other Senators who preceded us remain a presence here and a source of inspiration as we come to work.

We are doubly fortunate to serve at a time when an unprecedented number of former Senate leaders are still living. In 1998, my friend, Senator Lott, had the inspired idea to invite these leaders back to the Senate to share their wisdom and experience with us. The Leader's Lecture Series has become the most remarkable lecture series in Washington. Over the last four years, we have heard thought-provoking remarks from Mike Mansfield, Howard Baker, the incomparable Robert C. Byrd, former President George Bush, Dan Quayle, George Mitchell, Robert Dole, and former President Gerald Ford.

Tonight, we have the privilege of hearing from the ninth leader. Before I introduce him, I want to introduce another leader, a man whose name is on this Leader's Lecture Series now, the man who created it, my colleague and friend, the Republican leader of the Senate, Trent Lott.

Introduction by Senator Trent Lott

Thank you very much, Senator Daschle.

Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Mondale, we are delighted to have you here tonight. I must say that you both really look good. It is somewhat unnerving to those of us who are still in the Senate to see how good some of our former colleagues look when they leave the institution. But we are really honored and delighted you are here with us tonight.

To our colleagues, present and past, and friends of the Senate, thank you very much for being here.

Five years ago, I was talking to some Senators and former staff members about the Senate. We came to the realization that while there was a large body of history about the Senate -- and Senator Byrd has certainly contributed to that -- we realized that there were a number of former Vice Presidents, presidents pro tempore, and former majority and minority leaders who were living who had served in the past fifty years, and who really had not been able to record their part of the history of the Senate. We realized they were still here and they had a lot to offer us on how the Senate worked in those days, and we could benefit from their knowledge and put it to good use for the future. That is how the idea of the Leader's Lecture Series was created.

I talked to Senator Daschle about it and he agreed this was a great idea. We would have Senate Democrats and Republicans come and address the institution. Some great and distinguished men have spoken at this lecture series. We are recording now the ninth bit of history. We asked these speakers to speak about anything they wanted to, but maybe, if they would, take the occasion to tell us what they learned and how it applies to what we are doing today. Every one of them has done that.

I will never forget Mike Mansfield giving part of the speech he was going to give on that Friday President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember Senator Baker giving us his "Baker's dozen" about the Senate.

I hope someday we can put all nine lectures together in bound form so that future generations can learn from the experience of these great leaders.

So that is what this is about. It is not really about the past; it is about the future. It is about learning from the past and building on that and doing a better job as Senators today.

So I am delighted that we have former Senator and Vice President Mondale here with us tonight. I have learned that when you leave the Senate, or the Vice Presidency, you don't slow down. We learned from Vice President Mondale that you get busier. Obviously, he is still very active. After having been Ambassador, he still goes to Japan occasionally, and we have been pursuing him for this event for quite some time. We are delighted that we have snared him so that we can add his remarks on this special occasion.

It is great seeing you, Joan. It is wonderful that you and your family members are here today.

Vice President Mondale, I think, really helped start the modern Vice Presidency. I understand that you were the first Vice President, perhaps, who had an office in the west wing. It was perhaps the first time the Vice Presidency was merged with the Presidency. So you set a tremendous tone for the office that you held when you were in that position.

I have looked back on the period in which you served, and I thought about it some more. When you look at the headlines of today, it is amazing how similar they are to those during the time you served as Vice President. Indeed, the hatred of freedom, which took our citizens hostage back then flowed from the same poison stream that one year ago tried to make us hostages to fear. So the experiences that you had in that time are particularly relevant to what we are going through today.

I want to welcome you here. I don't want to take away from Senator Daschle giving more specific details about your great record.

Thank you, Senator Daschle, for continuing this program. We have now reached the end of the leaders who were in the categories we talked about. I hope that now we can think about how we can continue this lecture series by bringing in other special speakers -- perhaps historians, perhaps others of great interest who have observed our Government and the Senate, whose ideas and thoughts could be useful. I look forward to working with you in that effort.

Again, I welcome Vice President Mondale and Mrs. Mondale. We are delighted to have you here. Thank you.

Introduction by Senator Tom Daschle

Thank you very much, Trent, for your words. I thank you all for being here tonight.

For fifty years, America has given Fritz Mondale a rare opportunity to observe and shape many of the major events shaping our nation. For two years, he has been discussing those events very candidly as part of an ambitious lecture series at the University of Minnesota.

It is not unusual, of course, for a politician to want to reflect publicly on his career. Many do that. What is unusual is to invite others, including people you know disagree with your position, to share the stage with you. But that is what Fritz Mondale is doing.

Some people find the noise of democracy a nuisance. To him, it is exhilarating. Recently, he told an interviewer, "What I love about politics in America is the vibrancy of it, the challenge of it, the chase, seeing things done, the majesty of democracy. To be part of it in America," he added, "is thrilling."

Fritz Mondale had two great political mentors, both of whom loved political debate as much as he does. The first was his father, Theodore Mondale, a farmer-turned-Methodist-minister, who believed in the social gospel and regularly discussed politics with his wife and children at mealtimes. The other was a man many of us admired, and some of us had the privilege to know, Hubert Humphrey.

Fritz Mondale was a 19-year-old college student and Hubert Humphrey was the mayor of Minneapolis when they first met. Mayor Humphrey was struggling at the time to wrest control of the newly merged Democratic Farmer-Labor Party from ultra-leftists, and Fritz Mondale volunteered to help. They succeeded, and for the next thirty years, they remained fellow travelers on a path that took them both to the front ranks of America's struggle for social justice and civil rights -- to the United States Senate and to the Vice President's office.

Fritz Mondale started his own career as a public officeholder in 1958 when Minnesota's Governor appointed him special assistant to the state's attorney general. When the attorney general resigned a year later, he was appointed to serve out the term. He was elected attorney general in 1960, and reelected in 1962 by one of the largest margins in Minnesota history. It was as Minnesota's attorney general in 1963 that he first drew national attention in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that secured the right to legal counsel for indigent criminal defendants.

In 1964, when Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice President, Fritz Mondale was appointed to fill his term. Minnesota voters reaffirmed their Governor's choice by electing Fritz to the Senate in 1966 and again by reelecting him in 1972. In his twelve years in the Senate, he was deeply involved in the struggle for civil rights. He was involved in education and other issues concerning children, and he was a leader in the divisive struggle and debate over Vietnam.

In 1974, Fritz decided to test his chances for the 1976 presidential nomination. After six months of intense, almost daily campaigning, however, he decided he missed his family too much and he enjoyed his Senate responsibilities too much, so he pulled out of the race.

After he withdrew, he wrote a book entitled The Accountability of Power. In it, he called for a more accountable Presidency under the checks of the Cabinet, the Congress, the media, and the public. The book won many fans. Jimmy Carter was so impressed that he asked its author to be his running mate on the 1976 Democratic Presidential ticket, or, as pundits called it at the time, the "Grits and Fritz" ticket.

Together, Fritz Mondale and Jimmy Carter, as Senator Lott just noted, transformed the office of the Vice President. Fritz Mondale was the first Vice President to have an office in the west wing, access to all Presidential information, and an opportunity to play a meaningful role in the White House virtually every day. "A full-scale partner" is how President Carter described their relationship.

In 1984, Fritz Mondale became the first -- and still the only -- Presidential nominee of either major party to select a woman as his running mate, the indomitable Geraldine Ferraro. She is here and we are delighted to have her.

After the election, Fritz told his children, "There are many things worse than losing a campaign, including losing your integrity or your self-respect." Even if he hadn't won the people's votes, he told his children, he felt he had won their respect by telling the truth, and he was proud of that.

He continued his public career, serving from 1993 to 1996 as our nation's Ambassador to Japan, where he helped open Japan's markets, for the first time in some cases, to U.S. automakers.

Throughout his career, he has been assisted by a remarkable woman, his wife Joan, who is also here tonight; she is to my right. I might also note that Ted and Eleanor are back here, and we welcome them as well.

Joan's tireless promotion of American art and artists has won her the affectionate nickname of "Joan of Art." We are delighted she could be here with us.

These days, the Mondales are back home in Minnesota where he practices law and, as I noted, contributes to the University of Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the home of that remarkable lecture series.

Fritz Mondale recently summed up his career this way: "I started dreaming that maybe I could get a seat on a county board or a city council and, before I knew it, I was in the White House. I am a very, very lucky man."

We are very lucky and grateful this evening to be able to welcome him back to the Senate. Please join me in welcoming the distinguished leader, our old friend, the former Vice President of the United States, Walter "Fritz" Mondale.

Address by Vice President Walter Mondale

Thank you very much for the very kind introduction, Tom, who is a good neighbor of ours, an old friend, and a wonderful leader. I thank him for the invitation to be here tonight, and I congratulate him on his leadership. Senator Lott, I have read all the previous speeches -- I will not reread them tonight -- and I think it may have been unintended, but the collective assemblage of those remarks, I think, not only provides a good summary of the modern history of the Senate, but from a special direction that no other history quite reaches. I think you are to be thanked for establishing this lecture series and, of course, I am proud to be a part of it.

I want to recognize especially my own Senators from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton. I am proud of both of them. I am glad you are here tonight. I thank you for your leadership.

As you may know, it was just about twenty years ago when I left the United States Senate and went down to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet here tonight I see people still serving our nation in the Senate from those days: Bob Byrd, Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Fritz Hollings. Fritz once paired with me and almost lost the next election. Above all, Danny Inouye is here. He and I had our offices across the hall from each other. We sat next to each other and talked for the better part of twelve years during our service together. I thank Danny for being here as well.

I want to thank two of my colleagues from those days who are here tonight: John Culver from Iowa, to my left; and my old buddy, Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin, who is up there to the right. I expect to hear from you before this evening is over. Of course, I want to recognize Geraldine Ferraro, a valiant running mate, facing challenging health problems, but here tonight to honor us, as she did throughout her public career. Thank you so much.

It is great to have my family here: Joan, Ted, Pam, William, Paul, my brother Pete, Jenny, Eleanor, and John. I am very proud of my family, and I am very glad that you are here.

I find it very moving to be back in the Senate. Each step I take here overwhelms me with memories. I really love this place. It is awesome to meet in this brilliantly restored Old Senate Chamber, where so much of America's early history was shaped.

Arrival in the Senate

When I arrived here early in 1964, this Chamber was abandoned. There was no furniture in it. I don't think there was a rug on the floor, or it was an old tattered rug. They had the seating chart, which is still here. I used to come here alone and try to visualize what it must have been like when Webster, Calhoun, Clay, and the others were going through those mammoth struggles. And then, of course, it became the chambers of our Supreme Court.

I arrived here just as our nation and the courts had decided that official discrimination must go. The old deals we learned did not work; instead, it made us two people and, in many ways, two nations. Now, our beautiful, old, restored Senate Chamber reminds us of our origins and reminds us that it was in our own time that we finally ended official discrimination, allowed the vote, opened our schools and colleges, united our Armed Forces, and finally became a truly United States of America.

My first Congress was the 89th, a truly remarkable Congress. I checked the numbers. We had 68 Senators in our caucus at that time. I don't know the current numbers, but that is what we had. It was an amazing session. We quickly passed one landmark act after another, and basic things such as civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, Medicare, elementary and secondary education, basic environmental laws, and a lot more.

I remember one afternoon, early in my first Congress, going to the Senate dining room to have coffee with some other new Senators. Seated at the next table within hearing range was the new Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey. I said to my friends at the table in an overly loud voice: "Hubert has been running all over the State of Minnesota and all over the country for as long as I can remember bragging about his support of these bills. I have only been here three months and we have passed it all. There is nothing to this." Humphrey bolted out of his chair, but I can't remember what he said.

My Senate years were the happiest of my public career. I found my sweet spot here. I loved working with friends and colleagues, and I loved learning new things. I loved watching my colleagues do their stuff. It reminded me of what Mark Twain once said: "Politicians either grow or they swell." Eighteen hours a day, every day, it was like mainlining human nature.

I am one of the few in this lecture series who have served both in the Senate and as Vice President. I can tell you from personal experience that these two jobs are very different. I read in the paper where some of you are thinking of running for President -- nothing new there. But I will bet there is a private list of you thinking of seeking the Vice Presidency.

Think it over.

The Vice Presidency, Growing in Stature and Power

Since the start of our nation, the Vice Presidency has been an awkward office. Its occupants are notoriously unhappy. The Constitution, as you know, only assigns the duty, if wanted, to preside and to break ties if you so desire. Here is a public officer, the only one in our government system, who belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch. But for most of our history, since the Vice Presidents were in both branches, they have been treated as if they were in neither.

As David McCullough writes in his masterful biography of John Adams, our first Vice President had nothing to do in the executive branch, so he determined to make it on the stage of the Senate. He made speeches and engaged in debate from the Chair. He was shut down by the first Senate with such force that he said, "I have no desire ever to open my mouth again upon any question." He didn't know it at the time, but that is pretty much how it has been for more than 200 years of Vice Presidents who followed.

Even Lyndon Johnson, perhaps the most powerful majority leader ever, found the Vice Presidency a devastating comeuppance. It is wonderfully described in Robert Caro's superb work of history entitled Master of the Senate. All of Washington, Caro wrote, "understood that Johnson had lost all of his power, so completely that he had become almost a figure of ridicule in the Capitol."

But at least he kept his "Taj Mahal," now called the LBJ Room. It was a suite I knew very well. After my election to the Vice Presidency, it was given to me as a transition office. But shortly after I moved in, I received a touching call from Senator Byrd. I still remember. I thought he was going to talk about Cicero and the origins of the Senate. Instead, he said, "I want you out of there by January 2nd." I was prepared to go.

Where I went was to an office never previously occupied by any other Vice President in history -- an office in the west wing just steps from the Oval Office. I was given that office by Jimmy Carter, who was determined to do more with the Vice Presidency than had ever been done before.

After we were elected, he asked for a written proposal of my ideas about the office. Dick Moe, my Chief of Staff, who is here tonight, helped me prepare it. President Carter agreed to all of it. In retrospect, it redefined the Vice Presidency in our government. As someone later wrote, it "executivized" the Vice Presidency. Basically, they moved down to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The changes went beyond the west wing office. Starting at that time, and continuing, I believe, today, the Vice President has access to all information the President receives, including the daily intelligence briefings. He has complete access to the President and to all the administration's leaders and a standing invitation to all presidential meetings. He is the President's troubleshooter at home and abroad. He helps develop the administration's legislative agenda and its budget. He has a key voice in appointments. He is second in the military chain of command, in case of presidential incapacitation. When other government officers or foreign leaders talk to a Vice President now, they know he speaks for the President.

In the years since I was Vice President, I have been particularly interested to read and hear how my successors have fared in that office. Ronald Reagan's Vice President, George Bush, it was said, was the most powerful Vice President in history. Then Dan Quayle was the most powerful Vice President in history. Then Al Gore was the most powerful Vice President in history. And now Dick Cheney is the most powerful Vice President in history.

All of it is true, collectively, from Mondale to Cheney. The Vice Presidency of the past quarter century is dramatically more powerful and influential than it had ever been in the two centuries that preceded it.

The Enduring Senate

I have always been struck by how our American Senate, which started here -- unlike practically every other upper parliamentary body around the world -- has gained power through the years, while other bodies have been weakened or eliminated. Some are just places for old politicians -- an idea that appeals to me more with each passing day.

Today, there is nothing like the United States Senate to be found anywhere else in the world. Nearly alone among the nations of the world, our Senate shares equal superior power with the other legislative body. What are the reasons?

Well, of course, one is our federal system, where each state is to be given equal weight. But I believe another reason is to be found in our unique Senate rules, which vest enormous power in each individual Senator. When majorities prevail in our Senate, it is only by leave of minorities. Each Senator has the power to debate -- to speak, to ventilate, to delay, and to be heard, perhaps without limit. Each Senator has the power to expose and, through their committees, the power to investigate and require disclosure. And, with six years, each Senator has the gift of time -- time to listen to others, time to think, to read, to debate, and time for courage, time to risk defeat -- and even to accept defeat -- for our country and our future.

Some of you may remember that I was involved in several long and sometimes bitter debates over the cloture rule. When I traveled around the world, I always asked parliamentary leaders how their rules governed the closing of debate: How did their Parliament get to a vote? Wherever I went, I got the same response: Bafflement. They could not understand it. They could not explain how they got to a vote. Somehow, they just called a vote and it was held.

Of course, that is much different than here in the Senate. One of the first things we learn in the Senate is the rules that govern the closure of debate. It is the essence of the stature and the power of each Senator and, I believe, of the Senate itself.

When I came to the Senate, I thought a simple majority should be enough to end debate. I had seen the cloture rule abused in the past, especially on civil rights. The old rules permitted virtually endless talk. In recent years, many Senators had developed a post-cloture strategy where, even after a successful cloture vote, they could still carry on forever, reading and amending the Journal, reading and amending the Chaplain's prayer -- as we did for several days -- filing hundreds of amendments, with no end in sight.

It had to be changed, and it was, to what is now called the Byrd rule. But to end a filibuster still requires 60 votes, and I believe that is about right. It is a balancing act. You need to be able to close off debate, but you also need to give an individual Senator the power to stop everything in the country and to rip open an issue in a way that no other institution in America can.

It can't happen in the House. Their rules of debate are very different. It can't happen in news conferences. It can't happen on talk shows. That is entertainment, not debate. Only the Senate can stop the nation in its tracks, and it is the only body in the world that allows it.

As George Mitchell said in his remarks before this very forum, during the Irish peace negotiations, every time he refused to cut speakers off, he explained that he acquired his political training here in the United States Senate. "The right of unlimited debate," he said, "is a rare treasure which you must safeguard. Of course, it can be, and is, abused. But that is the price that must be paid, and the privilege is worth the price."

Besides the power to debate, Senators have the power to discover, the ability to investigate, issue subpoenas, hold hearings, and to conduct thorough oversight of the executive branch.

I remember when, as a young Senator, the Watergate hearings began. I was being visited by some French journalists, I believe. One of them told me that "this is such an astounding thing -- that it's possible for a parliamentary body to call the highest officials of the government before them and make them account for their actions. This would never happen in France."

I bet it would not happen in most places. Our ability to demand an accounting has set us apart from the rest of the world. The ability of the Senate to discover relevant information, despite executive resistance, is an essential check on executive power. It should be seen as one of the indispensable elements of the Senate's vitality and one of the basic reasons that America is the most powerful democratic country in the world.

What a wonderful world it would be if we didn't need the power to expose. What a paradise we would live in if trust were never abused. But our Founders knew better. They built our system on this deep insight into human nature: We are not perfect. We are, all of us, mixtures of good and base, lofty and lowly, selfless and selfish. We are capable of sonatas, sonnets, and cathedrals. But we are also capable of greed, paranoia, and a dangerous thirst for power.

As James Madison famously wrote in Federalist No. 51, "Men are no angels." From that insight came our system of checks and balances. Instead of pretending that the lesser angels of our nature don't exist, or adopting the conceit of many tyrannies that humankind can be deformed into something new, we created a system of checks and balances that pits ambition against ambition.

While I was a Senator, I often looked longingly down Pennsylvania Avenue and wondered why they had all the power. Then, shortly thereafter, as Vice President, I remember looking out the White House window in the other direction and wondering why Congress had all the power. I think that is the way the system is supposed to work.

Challenges Ahead

This evening I have said why I think the Senate is uniquely powerful. But I see some challenges threatening to undermine it. First, the threat posed by the assertion of the right to unaccountable government.

Our nation is in a dangerous war against terrorists who no doubt plan to strike us again. I know much of your time, as it must be, is directed against this threat.

But there is always the danger that our fears will overcome our faith in the power of justice and accountability. Whenever we have gone down that road, we have hurt the innocent and embarrassed ourselves.

One of our Senators, here tonight, nearly died in combat while serving our country in World War II, while some of his Japanese-American relatives were locked up in American concentration camps. Martin Luther King was hounded for years by officials who tagged him as a black hate leader, although we now know he helped save our country.

At these times of tension and fear, our nation has had the tendency to believe that our system of justice is too weak to protect us, that our Government's efforts should be beyond discovery and challenge by the Congress because the risks are too great. I respectfully disagree. Justice and accountability always make us better able to face our enemies. Justice strengthens us.

In the 1970s, I served on the Church Committee, which investigated and reported on a broad range of abuses against Americans by American investigative agencies, often done at the request of the President and other top leaders. The heart of the matter is always this: How does our nation perform acts that must be kept secret, yet be accountable to the Congress, to the courts, and to the American people?

The key result of our work was to call for the establishment of House and Senate Intelligence Committees, based on our finding that the secret agencies must be held accountable to the Congress. I believe Americans are comforted to know that these committees are in business today, charged with protecting the American people from their adversaries.

But I also believe that the disaster of 9/11, almost a year ago, warrants the creation of a special committee on 9/11. The proposal for this broader, government-wide effort is supported by the victims' families, the American people, and the majority leader. There are ample precedents for such a committee, charged with establishing a full record of what happened, together with recommendations to improve our ability to anticipate and prevent future terrorist attacks.

I think the committee might review the powerful model established by Richard Russell when he conducted closed hearings in the now-famous Truman-MacArthur dispute. While the hearings were closed, each day a declassified transcript of the day's hearings was made available to the press. The public could follow the debate while essential secrets were protected. We need something like that today so that the American people can be better informed.

Second, the pressure of big money in politics and its power to compromise and destroy public trust still threaten the Senate and our nation. I never met a Senator who liked the hours or the humiliation that campaign fundraising takes. I believe the need to raise big money has diminished the stature of the Senate and of all public bodies. As Senator Byrd has said, it has made us full-time fundraisers and part-time public officers. Now you have passed a good campaign finance reform act that begins to close some loopholes. But we must keep at it. As Lincoln once said about public trust: "With [it], nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed."

Third, the transformation of news into entertainment, and politics into entertainment, also threatens the Senate. Journalism used to be about bringing important information to the attention of citizens and about getting the story straight. Now it seems to be about shouting to get the attention of consumers. Broadcasters used to acknowledge that they have a public interest obligation in exchange for the license that the public has temporarily granted them. Now many of them act as though they own the spectrum and owe the public nothing for it in return, except profits for shareholders.

Every Senator knows what I am talking about. You can make a thoughtful case, and with the blessed exception of C-SPAN, it will disappear into thin air. It seems that the only way you can get noticed by the mass media is to make sensational charges. Another speaker in this series, President Gerald Ford, put it this way: "The more political parties try to make themselves over into the vehicles of entertainment, the smaller the audience. Perhaps the answer is to stop making politics more like television and, instead, make television pay more attention to politics."

Finally, the threat to the Senate's powers posed by incivility. The Senate, as we all know, is much more than its rules. There are 100 of us here at one time. You cannot live cheek by jowl with people, the way you do in the Senate, without getting to know an awful lot about them. You see people who are really special. I think of Phil Hart -- a saint -- and Mike Mansfield, who was so special always, and my old friend, Hubert.

I think the word "greatness" is overused, but there are people who seem to develop that extra capacity for breadth and decency over their lives. The longer I was here in the Senate, the more those sorts of things meant to me and the more I found myself listening to others with different points of view and wondering whether I was always right. I don't think I was any less committed to my causes. But as Judge Learned Hand once said, "The spirit of liberty is to be found in the notion that you might be wrong." Our beloved U.S. Senate allows something special to come out of anyone who enters this place. It doesn't elevate everyone, but it permits it.

I have heard from many that the Senate has changed; that the debates are harsher, more partisan; that there is less time to think, less time to meet socially; and some fear that basic civility has been shattered. If this is true -- and I hope it isn't -- the Senate could lose the essential capacity, in good times and in bad, which has enabled it to serve the deepest needs of our nation. I profoundly hope that this has not, and will not, come to pass.

When America was first imagined, John Winthrop said it should be "a city upon a hill." He didn't mean Capitol Hill. But he might have. The city on this hill is in your hands. May you have the wisdom and the power to protect it always. My years in private life have really convinced me more than ever that we really need you.

Thank you very much.

Return to Leader's Lecture Series Table of Contents Page

 
  

E-mail a Senate historian

Information provided by the Senate Historical Office.

Questions about Senate History?
Email a Senate historian.