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William F. Hildenbrand: Secretary of the Senate


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“In those days, people would send out letters to their colleagues to announce they were going to go make their maiden speech.”

Interviewed in 1985 by Senate historian Donald Ritchie, Hildenbrand recalls the bygone Senate custom of new senators refraining from speechmaking during their first year in office.


RITCHIE: Is it as important for a new senator to keep quiet in the beginning and be deferential to the senior senators as it was say twenty years ago?

HILDENBRAND: Probably not. I would like to see it that way. I would like to go back to the days when you didn't talk for the first year, except to answer your name when they called it. But I don't think that the electorate would put up with that. I think they expect you to hit the ground running and do something the first day that you're there, remake the wheel or whatever it is. So I don't think it would work. I would like to see it. I think there's a learning experience that goes along with that that would make you a much better senator than they have today, if you spent that first year learning instead of shooting off your mouth, because you can't learn while you talk.

Jim Allen started that, as a matter of fact. He was the one that came in here and broke the business of not talking for the first year. You know, in the old days people used to come over to hear somebody's maiden speech. Now you have to get there as soon as they open the doors because some guy's going to make his maiden speech. In those days, people would send out letters to their colleagues to announce they were going to go make their maiden speech, they'd been here a year. Cale Boggs did that. But not anymore. I'd like to see it come back, but I don't think the electorate would stand for it.