tv U.S. Senate Sen. Jeff Flake Farewell Speech CSPAN2 December 13, 2018 7:28pm-7:49pm EST
bright. my heart has and always will be in nevada. a state that i love and a place where i am so proud to call home. nevada, thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for you. thank you, madam president. [applause] >> mr. president, from arizona. >> mr. president, like to begin today by noting that half the people of arizona and america have been truly lucky, my mother or father would have served in the united states house of representatives and in the senate. everything i know about what irmatters most in life, i learn first at their dinner table. but for many reasons, they were otherwise preoccupied raising and feeding 11 children. working the land, running cattle to keep the business going.
serving the church and community daily. and into many other ways to count, my parents were too meaningfully occupied to get involved in politics. so you get there son instead. i rise today to say it's been the honor of my life to represent my home, arizona. in the united states senate and before that, in the house of representatives. it has been my honor and life after being deemed the rate his son, cheryl's husband and ryan, alexis, austin, tanner -- through 18 reyears in washingto our kids grow up thinking it was normal to have their faces plastered on campaign signs along the roadside. whenever campaigns roll along, they were dragged to countless fundraisers and campaign events. they were used to havingtheir
dad joined them, sort of , with a choreographed wave on c-span at dinnertime. they spent summers in washington catching the fireflies and fighting with their dad on the house floor. they served as interns and congressional pages.much of it they enjoyed, some of it they endured. but through all of it, they were not just good sports, but extraordinarily understanding and supportive. ... which our family is built, her strength, ec nimty, endless patience and love, her good humor, even when congressional life was not always funny, and her belief when disbelief would have been and her belief, when disbelief would have been perfectly reasonable, these are but a few of the long list of things that leave me simply awe-struck by my wife. i think all of us who presume to hold these positions owe someone
who loves us a debt that we can never, ever repay. but if they cannot be repaid, they can at least be properly recognized. cheryl, that girl i met on a beach so long ago, our wonderful children, my brothers, my sisters, my extended family. you know, john mccain often joked that the only way i ever got elected to anything was because of my hundreds of siblings and thousands of cousins. well,, the truth hurts, i reckon -- [laughter] senatore mccain just may have been on to something there. it was my honor to serve with him, asee it has been my honor o serve with senator kyl. ed today i'm filled with gratitude, gratitude for the privilege of loving and being loved by those people i mentioned and of serving the state and the country that i love so well.
grateful beyond measure and luckier than i deserve to be. so i leave here grateful and optimistic. i will always treasure the friendships that began here and the kindnesses shown to me and my family by all of you, my colleagues. and i'll forever cherish the work of our country that we were able to do together. from the bottom of my heart, i thank you all. as i stand here today, i am optimistic about the future, but my optimism is due more to the country t that my parents gave o me than due to the present condition of our civic life. we are, of course, testing the institution of american liberty in ways that none of us ever imagined we would and in ways that we probably never should again. my colleagues, to say that our politics is not healthy is somewhat of an understatement. i believe thatli we all know wel that this is not a normal time
and that the threats to our democracy from within and without are real, and none of us can say with confidence how the situation that we now find ourselves in will turn out. over the past two years, i've spoken a great deal on the subject from this chamber. there will be time enough later to return to it in other settings. but in the time i have here today, and with your indulgence, i wouldns instead like to speak somewhat more personally. as the authoritarian impulse reasserts itself globally and global commitment to democracy seems now to be on somewhat shaky ground, i've been thinking a lot about, a lot recently about this american commitment to democracy, where it comes from and how, if the circumstances were right, it might slip away. this got me thinking about when e was a much younger -- when i
wasn a much younger man, when i had the privilege of witnessing a new democracy in africa. when i was about half the age i am now, and for my church mission i went to south africa and w zimbabwe. i fell in love with the people in these countries. when cheryl and i were drawn back to southern africa a few years later for a job, we were namibia in february of 1990 when, at the very moment that much of the world enslaved by totalitarianism was throwing off its shackles and the free world that the united states had led since world war ii was growing exponentially, the soviet union was in a glorious freefall, shedding republics seemingly by the day. and. eastern europe was squintig out into the light of liberation for the first time in 40 years. free markets and free minds were sweeping the world. freedom was breaking out in the southern hemisphereut as well.
the country where i was sitting just that very morning was itself only days old. inem november of 1989, the same week the berlin wall came down, namibia had held its first election as an independent nation, freed from the apartheid administration of south africa. this had come to pass in no small part because of leadership from the united states through the united nations. just days earlier an drafted only a few blocks away from where i sat. a new democracy's founding constitution. the inspiration for which had been the marvel of free people everywhere and those who aspire to be free, the united states constitution. at that time i was in africa working for the foundation for democracy, tryingg to insure tht namibia emerged from the process as a democratic country.
in my rolet at that foundation,i advantagized for democracy and democratic values, the benefits of which had been a given for me for my entire life. i can safely say though that i learned more about democracy from the lives of those around me who aspired to it than those who experienced it as a birthright. as i sat there in a brand new african democracy, i read the speech that the play wright and new president -- playwright and new president of the newly democratic czechoslovakia had just delivered before a joint session of the united states congress. just across the way here in the house chamber. pavel, who had spent much of the previous decade in a communist dungeon and whose last arrest as a dissident had been mere months before, was quite astonished to find himself president of anything, much less the country of his oppressors.
i sat there in africa and read havel's speech. a love letter to america. literary and inspiring. i was overcome by his words. there is nothing quite like a sensation of having someone who has been stripped of everything but his dignity reflecting the ideals of your own country back at you in such a way that you see them more clearly than ever before and maybe for the first time. in some ways, that man knows your country better than you know it yourself. i can only imagine how surreal it must have been felt for havel as he stood before the entire congress, the president, his cabinet, diplomatic corps, joint chiefs ofma staff assembled befe him in the house chamber of our capitol building with the vice presidentto and speaker of the house behind him, all standing in a sustained ovation, a deep
respect from the oldest democracy in the t world to the newest whose leader had been a political prisoner just j a sean earlier. havel soberly poured out his gratitude to the united states for the sacrifice that our country had made in liberating europe once again and for the lmoral example of its leadership around the globe. in opposing the soviet union, the country, he said, that rightly gave people nightmares. havel's odd appreciation for the values that too many of us might talk foror granted brought homeo me, an american in my mid 20s sitting therer in africa, the power ofle the american exampleo the whole world. and the humbling responsibilities that come with thatow power. it is no exact ration to say havel's disposition on democracy before congress that day inay is 1990 was a turning t
in my civic education. havel similarly called out to the whole world from washington on that day in 1990 with grace and without rancor. but for one mistaken prophesy that, to me, now reads as tragic, especially inpe the context of the here and now. at the time as the wall fell and the soviet bloc that had been encased in stalinism thought, it was vogue among some historians, scholars and others to declare the end of history. that the big questions had been settled, that liberal democracy was triumph fall and inexorable and that the decline of the impulse to enslave whole countries was also inexorable. freedom had won, it was said, and forever. the historian francis fukuyama, who had coined the end of history in an essay a year before, was much in demand, and it was likely that havel would have been h inspired by the ferr
which might explain this passage from his speech. he said i often hear the question how can the united states of america help us today? my reply is as paradoxical as my whole life has been, you can help us most of all if you help the soviet union on its irreversible and immensely complicated road to democracy. of course, history was not over. the road to democracy is not irreversible. not in moscow, not in america, not anywhere. after erecting a village for democracy for an agonizing decade or so, the russians thrust forward a strongman amid the chaos, a strongman who is determined to reassemble the pieces of a broken empire and in the process strangling russian democracy in its cradle. vladimir putin would go on to be president, and he is president still. and just as he hawaii jacked democracy -- hijacked democracy
in his own country, he is determined to do is so everywhere. denial of this reality will not make it any less real. this is something that is staring us in the face right now as r we are gathered here today. as we in america during this moment of political disfunction and upheaval contemplate the hard-won conventions and norms of democracy, we must continually remind ourselves that none of this is permanent. that it must be fought for continually. civilization and the victories tof freedom, history itself, ae not a matter of once achieved, always safe. havel lived h this. the lovers of democracy i met in namibia lived this. our children whose rights and prerogatives have never been in doubt are, for the most part, unaware of it. butar we are being powerfully reminded just how delicate all
of it is right now. the stability of tested alliances and the consistency of words and deeds sum up the best of water's edge postwar consensus on foreign policy. it might seem that all of this has lately been tossed around like pieces on a board, but it's important to remember that we have seen such tumult before, and it is a genius of the architects of our liberty that we can withstand it and emerge the stronger for it. what struck me in namibia that day with such force and has stayed with me ever since is how vital a beacon the united states is and has always been to the peoples of the world. both to those who are already free and those who still suffer in tyranny. mr. president, it is a solemn obligation that we have as americans. let us recognize from this place here today that the shadow of
tyranny is once again enveloping parts of the globe, and let us recognize as authoritarianism reasserts itself in country after countrys that we are by no means immune. i stand here today recognizing that i have had the good fortune during my time in the senate to have been surrounded by supremely smart and dedicated staff. some of whom have worked for me for my entire 18 years in washington. my chiefs of staff, steve, margaret, matt, chandler, roland have ably supervised a that included over the years people like colleen, helen, chuck, chris, sarah, emily, brian, blake, chance, matt, colin, melanie, anna,in brian, katie, james lan,
andrea, kunal, gary, michael and so many others who drafted substantive legislation is and crafted -- and crafted erconsequential amendments that have been signed into law. my schedulers, office manager and press shop have been asked to explain a lot over the years including my penchant for marooning myself deserted islands, sometimes with people like senator martin heinrich. or forced to explain why i've been chased by elephants in mozambique with senator chris coons. people like celeste gold, megan shepherd, caroline -- [laughter] seally and megan run on, christine, michael, jacob mckeon and jason samuels, liz, dan, christa, jonathan, elizabeth and many more.
they have kept me largely out of controversy, if not out of elevators, during my entire time in office. [laughter] dedicated causeworkers -- caseworkers have helped countless arizona seasons with issues from veterans issues to social security. i am frequently stopped, as i'm sure many of my colleagues are, in airports and grocery stores andth thanked for the good work done by my staff. thank you to buchanan, mary, julie, melissa, mike, jeremy, michael, chris, bob, blake, chelsea, elizabeth and so many others for such dedicated constituent work over the years. to all who have served in my office, i will miss your wise counsel, but most after owl your friendship. -- of all, your friendshipment thank you. i would also like to say a word of thanks to the institutional officers that serve the senate
so ably. the clerks, parliamentarians, the floor staff, the pages, the sergeant at arms and his employees and the capitol police who keep us safe here in the capitol and at times on distant baseball fields. i quite literally owe my life to them. thank you. mr. president, as i give this last speech frompe the chamber,i cannot help to look to my maiden speech i gave here six years ago. in it i talked about how 12 newly-elected senate freshmen in 2012 were invited to the national around kentuckys and taken to the legislative vault where we viewed the original signed copy of the first bill ever enacted by congress as well as other landmark pieces of legislation and memorabilia. oath of allegiance signed by revolutionary war soldiers, witnessed by general washington,
documents and artifacts related to the civil war, segregation, women's suffrage and the civil rights movement were also on hand. i noted that it was an affirmation to me of the tumultuous seas through which our ship of shade has sail -- state has sailed for more than 200 years with many brilliant and inspired individuals at the helm along with personalities ranging from mediocre to malevolent. but our system of government has survived them all. i alsoi noted then and i will echo today that serious challengesch lie ahead. but by any honest reckoning of our history and our prospects, we will note that we've confronteded and survived more daunting challenges than we now face. ours is a durable, resilient system of government designed to withstand thegn foibles of those who sometimes occupy these halls. including yours truly.
so i start a new chapter in the coming weeks. i am grateful most of all for privilege of having served with allll of you here. it is my sincere hope that those in this body will always remember the words of lincoln who said, "we shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth." "the way forward," he said, is a way which, if followed, the world forever applaud, and god will forever bless. i yield the floor. [applause] >> it probably won't surprise my colleagues to know that i