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About Traditions & Symbols | Maiden Speeches

From the Senate’s earliest days, new members have observed a tradition of remaining silent during floor debates for a period of time that ranged—depending on the era and the senator— from several months to several years. Bowing to this tradition, some senators believed that by waiting a respectful amount of time before giving their maiden speech they would earn the respect of senior members. Senior senators argued that the tradition taught junior colleagues the lesson of humility. Today, all that survives of this long-held Senate tradition is the special attention given to a member’s first major address. Typically, Senate leaders along with the senator’s senior colleague from his or her home state will be on hand to witness the speech, while the new senator’s family watches from the gallery. Maiden speeches remain an important milestone in Senate careers.

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