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Maiden Speeches

Photo of Robert La Follette
Robert La Follette Library of Congress

In 1953 newly elected senator Barry Goldwater received this advice from veteran senator Carl Hayden: “Always vote with your party and keep your mouth shut for at least four years.” In those days, new senators were expected to wait a substantial period of time—perhaps years—before giving their first major address in the Senate. This waiting period was considered to be a sign of humility and a willingness to learn from senior members. Well into the 20th century, most freshman senators followed this tradition. One rebel who bucked the system was Wisconsin’s Robert La Follette. Fightin’ Bob’s maiden speech, delivered a mere three months into his first term, was a filibuster that lasted eight hours and filled 148 pages of the Congressional Record.

 
  

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