Durbin Pays Tribute To Vice President Joe Biden On Senate Floor
WASHINGTON—In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) paid tribute to Vice President Joe Biden, with whom he served in the Senate for 12 years:
“Mr. Vice President, for more than 40 years you have taken all the strength and wisdom you learned from your family, and all of your own experiences with loss and hardship, and you have used those lessons to give countless millions of people in Chicago, in America, and around the world, reasons to hope and ways to heal. You are a public servant in the best sense of that term,” said Durbin. “You may be leaving public office soon, but I know that you will never leave your calling to help others in every way you can. It’s part of being a Biden. On behalf of a grateful nation and world, I want to say to you – and to Jill and all of your family – thank you for making hope and history rhyme.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available for TV Stations using FTP in high definition and standard definition.
Durbin’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available below:
Remarks of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Honoring Vice President Joe Biden
December 7, 2016
Mr. Vice President: For eight years, seeing you in that seat has always filled many of us with hope. It almost always meant that something big, something historic, was about to happen--
Seeing you seated in the Senate President’s desk today evokes different emotions for many of us: Regrets that a momentous chapter in America’s history is about to close; Pride at what we have achieved during these last eight years; and most of all, respect and gratitude to you for the essential role you played in those achievements and so many others.
The highest praise your old friend Ted Kennedy could give a person in our line of work was to say: “You have the Irish love of politics and great words.”
Mr. Vice President, you have both of those gifts in abundance, and America – and the world – are better because of it.
I know that you are a great admirer of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (“Haney”) – and particularly of these lines that he wrote… I quoted them on the evening of your inauguration eight years ago.
“History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.”
You and President Obama left this Senate eight years ago with an audacious belief that we could, indeed, make hope and history rhyme.
Together, we could heal some of the terrible wounds of our past and together, we could create a better, more just, more prosperous America – not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.
And let the record show: Under the leadership of President Barack Obama, America achieved great progress.
We stopped America’s slide into a Second Great Depression that could have brought down the entire global economy.
When others said “Save Wall Street but let the American auto industry, the heart of American manufacturing, die,” the Obama-Biden Administration said no.
Today, American auto companies are recording their biggest profits in years,
Car and truck plants that had been idled are running two and three shifts.
For more than 70 years, Presidents from both parties – Republicans and Democrats – tried to make health care affordable and available for most Americans.
“Obamacare” – the Affordable Care Act – finally achieved that goal.
Twenty million Americans have health care today because of Obamacare,
Many of those 20 million Americans have never had health insurance in their lives.
They are good, hard-working people like Judy, the housekeeper in a small hotel in Illinois, where I sometimes stay. At the age of 60, because of Obamacare, she finally had the security to know that she could see a doctor if she gets sick.
And every American who has health insurance has better, more reliable care because of the patient protections in Obamacare.
No more annual or lifetime caps on coverage. No more discrimination because of pre-existing conditions. No more of insurance companies calling all the shots and making all the rules.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here,”
Seamus Heaney wrote in that same poem.
“Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.”
Because of Obamacare, millions more Americans can now believe that “cures and healing wells are within their reach.”
Achieving that security was what your dear friend, Teddy Kennedy, called “the fight of [his] lifetime.” And you saw it through.
And you didn’t stop there. You accepted the President’s challenge to direct the “Cancer Moonshot” research effort – to try to find the causes and cures for a rapacious disease that had brought so much pain to so many families, including, sadly, your own.
I look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming years to keep searching for new understandings, new treatments and new cares – not just for cancer but also for Alzheimer’s and addiction and other diseases.
Mr. Vice President, when you took office eight year ago, America was losing 800,000 jobs a month.
Today, America has the lowest unemployment rate in nine years.
I know that to some people, job-creation numbers are just statistics – but not to Joe Biden.
You have never forgotten that basic truth your father taught you when you were a boy. Your dad taught you that a job is more than a paycheck. A job is hope, it is dignity and purpose.
You never forgot how it crushed your dad to tell you that the bank refused to lend him the money to send you to college.
That is why, for 40 years, you have worked to make college more affordable for every family, including working-class and poor families.
The daily struggles of ordinary Americans are not something that you have ever had to be briefed on. They are realities that you lived and have never forgotten.
You are as home in a union hall as you are in the great halls of state and the palaces of monarchs.
There’s a story about an Irishman walking down a street. He passes two guys fighting and asks: “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in on it?”
You know a little about that, don’t you, Mr. Vice President?
For 40 years or more, you have always been ready to fight for those who needed a champion – whether they were victims of genocide overseas or victims of discrimination here at home.
Your public career has been marked by nearly unbearable losses and sorrows. But it has also been filled with joy, passion, determination and immense accomplishment.
The list of your legislative achievements is long and broad, filled with courage and vision.
One of the legislative achievements of which you are most proud, and rightly so, is the Violence Against Women Act.
That federal law was passed in 1994 to help reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, and to help victims of these crimes.
As you know, women and children make up the vast majority of the victims of both domestic violence and sexual assault in America.
VAWA is helping to change that.
The law you helped pass as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is helping victims of those soul-crushing crimes to heal and to go on and live healthier, safer lives.
The numbers show that VAWA works.
Listen to this: Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of violence against intimate partners – almost all women – declined by two-thirds, 67 percent.
At the same time, the rate of US women killed by their intimate partners dropped by 35 percent. And the rate of men killed by intimate partners dropped 46 percent.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
One of my favorite organizations is called Mujeres Latina en Accion. In English: Latina Women in Action. It is located in Chicago.
It opened its doors in 1973 and it is the oldest organization in the United States serving Latina women and children who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, or both.
The director of the organization is a dynamo named Maria Pesqueira.
Ask Maria what difference the Violence Against Women Act has made for the women and children her organization serves, she will start by telling you a story.
A few years ago, a woman came to their office.
They first noticed her standing outside their building.
She was a young mother. She was holding the hand of her 5-year-old daughter and she was nine months pregnant with her second child – ready to deliver any day.
This woman and her little girl had been thrown out of their home by her husband.
Someone told her about Mujeres Latina en Accion. She went to their old building and found it empty and locked.
She didn’t know that the organization had moved to a new facility.
For several minutes, she just stood outside that old building, frozen in fear that that there was nowhere and no one in the world who could help her.
At first, she and her little girl just stood outside the building, until some staff members saw them and welcomed them inside.
Maria says that what she remembers most about that mother was that her eyes were filled with fear – for herself, for her little girl, and for the baby she was about to bring into this world.
Mujeres Latinas en Accion was able to help that young mother, largely because of support from the Violence Against Women Act.
About two months later, Maria says, she walked into work and a confident young woman told her “good morning.”
Then, beaming with pride, she held up a little infant and said, “This is my son.”
For a few moments, Maria didn’t recognize the woman.
Then it struck her: This is the same mother who had stood outside her office, abandoned and terrified just two months earlier. The look of terror in her eyes had been replaced by pride and love and hope -- hope for a better future for herself and her children.
Today, that young mother supports herself and her children as an entrepreneur. She sells some of the best sweet-corn tamales you’ve ever tasted.
She still goes back to Mujeres Latinas en Accion, but today she goes to help other women who are hurt, frightened and lost, as she once was. She shows them how to heal and grow strong in the broken places so that they can care for themselves and their families.
Mr. Vice President, for more than 40 years you have taken all the strength and wisdom you learned from your family, and all of your own experiences with loss and hardship, and you have used those lessons to give countless millions of people in Chicago, in America, and around the world, reasons to hope and ways to heal.
You are a public servant in the best sense of that term.
You may be leaving public office soon, but I know that you will never leave your calling to help others in every way you can. It’s part of being a Biden.
On behalf of a grateful nation and world, I want to say to you – and to Jill and all of your family – thank you for making hope and history rhyme.
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