Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the retirement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
It’s never easy to bid farewell to a retiring colleague. But boy, this one’s hard. It’s even harder to bid farewell to a friend—and everyone is Pat’s friend.
Today, we say thank you not just to a colleague—and it’s not just to a dear friend—but to an institution all his own.
Pat: We’re here to say we honor you. We’re here to say we’ll miss you.
And most of all, we are here to say we are happy for you on your well-earned retirement.
We have all just heard Pat speaking so eloquently, so beautifully, from the heart, from his good soul and it took a lot of strength from all of us to keep it together. I saw lots of misty eyes in different parts of the speech. Lots of misty eyes.
It’s the conclusion for an era here in the Senate – I want him to hear this – we will call this the Leahy era, for all you have done. It’s an era that began in the aftermath of Watergate and now concludes nearly fifty years and eight terms later. A legacy that includes so much: Appropriations Chair, Agriculture Chair, Judiciary Chair, President Pro Tem. And to be sure, he’s finishing his tenure precisely the way we’d all expect him to: by being up at 10pm, 11pm, and 1:30 AM this morning – it kept getting later – to file the omnibus.
Now, if you looked up the word “Senator” in the dictionary, it would not be crazy to expect a picture of Pat included alongside that word.
His name is synonymous with everything good, dignified, and admirable in the upper chamber.
So, Pat learned so much in the years he has been here, and Pat was everything.
One accomplishment that he mentioned that just shows the mettle of the man was the work he did on land mines, anti-personnel land mines. He did an amazing job. There are thousands and thousands of people across the world – children, old people, and everyone in between – who are not maimed, who are alive because of his persistence, his dedication.
It took all of his skills: his knowledge of policy, his bipartisan chops, his eloquence on the floor, his stubborn relentlessness, and, most of all, his sense of duty to the people of the world, which he so aptly concluded with about the picture we've all seen in his office over his desk.
Of course, Pat will be the first to shun these accomplishments as his alone. After all, he is just one-half of the equation: the other half, of course, is Marcelle, an amazing, amazing person. We love you Marcelle. We love you. Pat’s remarkable wife and partner of six decades.
So, folks, it is the end of an era. Pat has done an amazing job in so many different ways. He would have sat here all day and all night if he were to delineate everything he has done for us and for the American people.
In closing, let me return to a serious thought on “duty”—from a source I suspect is near and dear to Pat’s heart, the great poet Robert Frost.
For those unfamiliar, the title of Pat’s new memoir—The Road Taken, which everyone should read—is a play on Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken.
Like Pat, Frost lived in Vermont (at least through much of his life), was a great lover of nature, a bold moral voice for a generation confounded by war, depression, and disruptions of modernity.
But there’s another Frost poem I want to cite today: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, about a man torn between his sense of duty to get home to his family and stopping to bask in the beauty of the countryside:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Pat, you have walked the miles.
You have kept your promises.
And when you get home to your beautiful tree farm up in Northern Vermont, you have earned more than a few extra hours of sleep.
But I have no doubt when you get up each morning, you will still be going, striving, and finding new ways to make Vermont a better place, just as you have made Senate a better place for all of us.
So thank you dear friend. We love you. We love you. We are going to miss you and Marcelle so very much.