FAREWELL TO THE SENATE


John EnsignU.S. Senator
[R] Nevada, United States

Length: 13 minutes, 17 seconds


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Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I rise today to deliver a very difficult speech. This will be my farewell speech to the Senate. Serving as Nevada's 24th Senator has truly been the greatest professional privilege of my life. Growing up with a single mom in very humble surroundings, I simply never imagined that one day I would end up as a Member of such an august body.

Unfortunately, the amazing experiences that stem from the more than 10 years of my Senate service cannot be summed up in one single speech. I owe a humble thank you to many people who helped to get me here and who have helped me serve effectively, from campaign volunteers, staff, and donors, to some of the best people with whom I have ever worked, my Senate staff. I cannot thank you enough for the honor of the past many years. Each of you has helped me to achieve more than my individual talents alone could have ever accomplished. When I look back over my time, both here and in the House of Representatives, I am very proud of the many accomplishments that we together have been able to achieve. I wish to take a moment to mention a few.

The beauty of the State of Nevada has been greatly enhanced and protected for the enjoyment of future generations because of my work in authoring the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act and several other important lands bills. Because of these lands bills, Nevada has been able to [Page: S2562] keep over $3 billion that has been raised from land sales in southern Nevada. This is money that did not have to come out of the U.S. Treasury.

In the past, BLM land; that is, the public land in Nevada, was exchanged for sensitive land around the State. But as a result of the lands bills we worked on, we were able to, instead, auction this BLM land, raising far more money for the State of Nevada than the land exchanges ever were able to do. This land revenue has been used to purchase sensitive land to protect it for future generations, but also to construct over 100 beautiful parks and trails in southern Nevada. I cannot tell you how proud I am when I drive around Las Vegas and see so many families enjoying these beautiful areas. These lands bills have made the great quality of life we enjoy in Nevada that much better.

Additionally, for those in northern Nevada, my love for Lake Tahoe has been evident throughout the years. I have worked hard to ensure that the beauty of those tranquil waters and surroundings will be just as beautiful decades from now as they are today, and our lands bills helped to achieve this goal. Through this legislation, hundreds of millions of dollars have been devoted to preserve its ecosystem, and important fuel reduction projects around our State will help prevent catastrophic wildfires that so threaten the future of our State and its breathtaking landscape.

Additionally, I have been a passionate advocate for education reform. Our lands bills have directed millions of dollars to Nevada schools as an endowment our State will benefit from for many years yet to come. I thank Senators Reid and Bryan for their cooperation in helping draft this legislation that so greatly benefits our State. I also thank the folks on my staff, especially John Lopez, who worked so hard to turn these pieces of legislation into law.

Speaking of legislation that became law, I wish also to highlight another accomplishment of which I am so proud.

As the only bipartisan provision in the so-called ObamaCare bill, Senator Tom Carper and I worked against some powerful interest groups to get the Healthy Behaviors Act added to the health reform bill.

Our provision was modeled after efforts by Safeway in the private sector to both improve health care quality and to reduce the cost of health care. Essentially, our provision rewards people in the form of lower health care premiums for making healthy choices, such as quitting smoking. If we as Americans continue to eat too much, exercise too little, and to smoke, it really does not matter what kind of health care reform we enact in this country; costs will continue to escalate. I hope this provision will highlight the individual contribution we can all make to reduce our health care costs.

Certainly this legislation would not have become law if it were not for the spectacular job Michelle Spence from my office did. As I mentioned earlier, I simply cannot list the number of things or the number of people on my staff who have helped me with legislation. We have accomplished a lot. I wish I could do it in just one speech, but it is not possible. I could speak at length about my fight for lower taxes and individual freedoms, protection of constitutional rights, the dignity of our service men and women, education reform, and so much more, but there is not enough time. I hope my voting record and legislative record in the Senate will continue to speak for me long after I have left this Chamber. I would like to speak, though, about a few observations I have made through the course of my time here.

When I first ran for office back in 1994, I was rather naive. I was also very idealistic. I simply wanted to make a difference in this great country. Throughout the years, I may have lost my naivete, but I never lost my idealism. I still strongly believe the United States is the greatest country in the history of the world, and it is worth fighting for and worth protecting.

I will leave this place knowing there are some really outstanding people here who are just as idealistic or maybe more so than I ever was, and they are willing to take the tough political votes that are necessary to save this country from total bankruptcy. My prayer is that more people will join them in that courage. Our children and our grandchildren deserve to have the same country we enjoyed, and it is up to the House, the Senate, and the White House to stand together with the American people to save the future of the United States from self-destruction.

When I first arrived in the Senate, I observed several people who were so caught up in their own self-importance and busyness that arrogance literally dripped from them. Unfortunately, they were blind to it, and everyone could see it but them. When one takes a position of leadership, there is a very real danger of getting caught up in the hype surrounding that status. Oftentimes, the more power and prestige a person achieves, the more arrogant a person can become.

As easy as it was for me to view this in other people, unfortunately, I was blind to how arrogant and self-centered I had become. I did not recognize that I thought mostly of myself. The worst part about this is that I even tried not to become caught up in my own self-importance. Unfortunately, the urge to believe in it was stronger than the power to fight it. This is how dangerous the feeling of power and adulation can be.

My caution to all of my colleagues is to surround yourselves with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming, and then make them promise to not hold back no matter how much you may try to prevent them from telling you the truth. I wish I had done this sooner, but this is one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn. I believe that if I had learned this lesson earlier, I would have prevented myself from judging two of my colleagues when I had no place to do so.

When I was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, I was confronted with the personal issues facing Senator Larry Craig and Senator Ted Stevens. Following Larry's admission and Ted's guilty verdict, I too believed in the power of my leadership position, and I called on both of them to resign. I sincerely struggled with those decisions afterward, so much so that I went to each of them a few weeks afterward and admitted what I did was wrong, and I asked both of them for forgiveness.

Each of these men was gracious enough to forgive me even though publicly I did not show them the same grace. I am very grateful to both of these men. When I announced my personal failure 2 years ago, Larry Craig was one of the first to call and to express his support. I truly cannot tell you what that meant then and what it means to me today.

The purpose of me speaking about this is to humbly show that in life a person understands mercy a lot more when they need it and when it is shown to them. Again, this is a hard lesson I have had to learn, but I hope I can now show mercy to people who come into my life who truly need it.

As I conclude, I have a few others I want to thank.

My colleague from the State of Nevada, Senator Reid. I ran against Senator Reid in 1998. He beat me by a little over 400 votes. Afterward, 2 years later, when I was fortunate enough to win the election, Senator Reid and I sat down and we kind of made a pact between us that we were going to get along even though we were of different parties, we were going to put the past behind us, and we were going to work together for the people of the State of Nevada. A funny thing happened along the way over these last 10-plus years: Senator Reid and I developed a friendship--two people with opposite voting records, opposite views on major national issues, but we worked together on a lot of issues that affected our State. A friendship formed between our staffs, and a true friendship formed between Senator Reid and myself. And for that, I want to thank him.

To my Senate colleagues, I would like to take a moment to apologize for what you have had to go through as a result of my actions. I know many of you were put in difficult situations because of me, and for that I sincerely apologize.

My wife Darlene, who has been through so much with me and has fought through so many struggles, is owed more than I could ever repay. I do not deserve a woman like her, but I love her, and I am so grateful the Lord has put her in my life. [Page: S2563] Our children, Trevor, Siena, and Michael, have never known anything other than their dad leaving each week to come back to Washington, DC, for my work. All three of them are incredible, and it has been a blessing and a privilege just to be their dad.

I have also been very blessed with a great set of parents who have stood by me through thick and thin, and also the rest of my extended family. I also have wonderful friends who have been there with me and my family through the highs and the lows.

Lastly, most importantly, I want to thank God for allowing me to be here. I have been encouraged by some not to mention God because it looks hypocritical because of my own personal failings, but I would argue that I have not mentioned him enough. I am glad the Lord not only forgives, but he actually likes it when we give Him thanks. So, Lord, thank you for all you have done in my life. I hope I can do better in the future. I hope I can learn to love You with all my heart, soul, and to love others as myself.

My colleagues, I bid you farewell. Know that you will all be in my prayers.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. BLUMENTHAL.) The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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