Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today delivered remarks at the Congressional tribute ceremony for Senator Robert J. Dole. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
Mr. President, Madam Vice President, Madam Speaker, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, distinguished guests, dear colleagues—and most importantly, Senator Elizabeth Dole:
The Scriptures say that we should “Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Today, we pay tribute to a remarkable leader who over the course of his life knew more than his fair share of suffering, who turned that suffering into endurance, whose endurance became central to his character, and whose character—whose essential goodness—leaves us with hope, hope that we will continue to see good men and women in this country like the one to whom we say goodbye today.
To pay tribute to Senator Bob Dole is to honor someone who redefined and elevated what it means to serve our country.
By 21, Bob Dole had given more of himself than most of us give in a lifetime, and then he kept going for seventy-seven years after that. And my God, it was seventy-seven years well spent!
At 27 he was elected to state politics. A decade later he came to Congress, followed promptly with election to the Senate. Sixteen years later, Bob Dole was Senate Majority Leader, remaining in party Leadership until his final run for President in 1996.
The years were well spent, however, not because of his titles but because of what he accomplished. Today, tens of millions of Americans—veterans, the elderly, the disabled, and millions of kids across the country—are better off because of Bob Dole.
He never lost his roots as a principled, pragmatic Kansas Republican, and Bob never hesitated to work with Democrats to get things done.
From joining Senator McGovern on federal nutrition programs to working with my former colleague, Senator Moynihan, to protect Social Security to helping pass the Americans with Disabilities Act with Senators Kennedy and Harkin Bob Dole was a champion of those whose lives were marred by struggle, who came not from citadels of privilege but from humble origins like his own.
In his memoir, Senator Dole wrote that supporters were sometimes surprised to hear that, of all his accomplishments in the Senate, reforming Social Security was his greatest pride, along with passing the ADA.
I am sure that surprises a few of us here today. But I doubt that those who knew the Bob Dole of Russell, Kansas—the man whose family lived for years in their own basement so they could rent out their house; who—as county attorney—had to approve his own grandfather’s welfare checks each month; whose recovery from war was made possible only after his hometown pooled money to pay for surgery—I imagine that those who knew this side of Bob Dole understood that no matter how high he climbed up the ranks, he never forgot the reason he entered public service.
And of course, he did it all with his unmistakable, acerbic wit, honed and refined over the years he worked as a soda jerk in the local drug store.
Bob Dole and I never worked together in the Senate, but I was not spared from his famous ribbing. Don’t worry, Bob, it’s safe to be between me and the cameras today.
In closing, I want to bring us back to an enduring image of Bob that took place nine years ago, as we said goodbye to another colleague lying in this Rotunda.
None of us will ever forget the strength and honor of Bob, with Elizabeth at his side, standing and saluting Danny Inouye one last time.
Bob used to tell the story of him and Danny recovering from war wounds together at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan.
As they recuperated they’d discuss their futures, with Bob telling Danny he planned to run for local office and, eventually, the U.S. Senate. At the time Danny had a different path in mind for himself but liked Bob’s plan, ran for office, and was actually elected to the Senate before Bob.
After Danny was sworn in, he called his old friend and said “Bob, I’m here in the Senate. Where are you?”
Now, as Bob approaches the pearly gates, let us take comfort that he can reunite with his old friend again.
In the meantime let the rest of us carry on, in thanksgiving and unending celebration of the life of this incredible American statesman.