tv U.S. Senate Sen. Jeff Flake Farewell Speech CSPAN December 14, 2018 7:12am-7:33am EST
i believe the nation's future is bright and nevada's future is bright. nevada is a state i love where i am so proud to call home, nevada, thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you. >> mister president, i would like to begin today by noting had the people of arizona and america been truly lucky, my mother or father would have served in the house of representatives and the senate. everything i know about what matters most in life i learned first at the dinner table but for many reasons they were
otherwise preoccupied raising and feeding 11 children, working the land to keep the business going, serving church and community daily and in too many other ways to count, my parents were too meaningfully occupied to detour to something that can be so frivolous as politics. you got their sons instead. i rise today to say it has been the honor of my life to represent arizona in the united states senate and before that in the house of representatives, that is my honor in life after being deemed a son, cheryl's husband and ryan's, austin, turner and dallas's father. through 18 years in washington, our kids grew up thinking was normal to have their faces plastered on campaign signs,
whenever campaigns roll along they were dragged to fundraisers and campaign events, they were used to having their dad joined them with a choreographed wave on c-span at dinner time. they spent summers catching fireflies and voting with their dad on the house floor. they served as interns at congressional pages. much of it they enjoyed, some of it they endured but through all of it they were not just good sports. and cheryl was a rock upon which our family is built. her strength, equanimity, patience and love, when congressional life was not always funny and her belief when disbelief would have been reasonable, it is a list of
long list of things with -- struck by my wife. all of us who presumed to hold these positions, a death we can never ever replay. if they cannot be repaid they could at least be properly recognized. the girl i met on a beach so long ago, wonderful children, my brothers, sisters, extended family. john mccain often joked the only way i ever got elected to anything was because of my 100 siblings and thousands of cousins. the truth hurts. senator mccain may have been onto something. it was my honor to serve with him as it has been my honor to serve with senator kyle.
i'm filled with gratitude for the privilege of loving and being loved by the people i mentioned and serving state and country i love so well, grateful beyond measure and luckier than i deserve to be. i leave grateful and optimistic. i will always treasure the friendships that began here in the kindness shown to me and my family by all of you and i will forever cherish the work of the country that we were able to do together from the bottom of my heart, i thank you all. as i stand here i'm optimistic about the future but my optimism is due more to the country my parents gave to me than the prevalent condition of civic life. we are of course testing the institution of american liberty in ways none of us ever imagined we would end in ways we never should again. my colleagues, to say that our
politics is not healthy is somewhat of an understatement. we all know that this is not a normal time and the threats to our democracy from within and without are real and none of us can say with confidence how the situation we find ourselves in will turn out. over the past two years i have 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 we have, i would like to speak more personally. as the authoritarian impulse reasserts itself globally and global commitment to democracy seems to be on shaky ground i have been thinking a lot recently about the 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 i was a much younger man when i had the privilege of witnessing the birth of 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 zimbabwe i fell in love with the people in these countries. when cheryl and i were drawn back to southern africa for a job we were in namibia when at the very moment much of the world enslaved by totalitarianism was thrown off its shackles and the free world the united states had led since world war ii was growing exponentially. the soviet union was in glorious freefall shedding republics seemingly by the day.
eastern europe was 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 hemisphere as well. the country where i was sitting that very morning was itself only days old. november 1989 the same week the berlin wall came down namibia held its first election as an independent nation freed from the apartheid administration of south africa. this had come to pass because of leadership through the united nations. just days earlier and awe-inspiring document was drafted near 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 3, the united states constitution. i was in africa working for the
foundation for democracy, trying to assure that namibia gained its independence as a democratic country and my role i.e. vandalized for democracy and democratic values that had been a given for me for my entire life. i can safely say 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 of the newly democratic czechoslovakia, just delivered before joined session of congress in the house chamber. and spent much of the previous decade in a communist dungeon and his last arrest had been
mere months before and astonished to find himself president of anything much less the country of his oppressors. i sat in africa and a love letter to america, literary and inspiring. i was overcome by his words. there's nothing like the sensation of someone who's 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, maybe for the first time. in some ways that man knows your country better than you know it your self. i can only imagine how surreal it must've felt as he stood before the entire congress, the president, the cabinet, diplomatic corps, joint chiefs
of staff assembled before him, the vice president and speaker of the house behind him standing in a standing ovation, deep respect from the oldest democracy to the newest whose leader was a political prisoner a season earlier. he soberly poured out his gratitude to the united states for the sacrifice the country made in liberating europe once again and the moral example of its leadership around the world and the country, he said rightly gave people -- his art appreciation for the values that too many of us might take for granted brought home to me an american in my mid-20s, the power of the american example to the whole world and the humbling responsibilities that
come with that power, no exaggeration to say that disposition on democracy before congress that day was a turning point in my civic education. and he similarly called out to the whole world from washington that day in 1990 with grace and without rancor but for one mistaken prophecy that tim d read this tragic especially in the context of the here and now. at the time the wall fell and the soviet bloc had been encased in stalinism, among historians, scholars and others to declare the end of history, that the big questions had been settled, liberal democracy was triumphal and inexorable and the decline of the impulse to enslave 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 the year before was much in demand and it was likely he would have been inspired by the fervor that might explain the passage, i often hear the question how can the united states of america help us today? my reply is as paradoxical as my life, you can help us if you help the soviet union on its irreversible and complicated road to democracy. history was not over. the road to democracy was not irreversible, not in moscow, not in america, not anywhere. after president and he is
president still and just as he hijacked democracy in his own country he is determined to do so everywhere. denial of this reality will not make it any less real. this is something staring us in the face as we are gathered here today. as we in america in this moment of political dysfunction and upheaval contemplate the hard won conventions and norms of democracy, we must continually remind ourselves that none of this is permanent. it must be fought for continually. civilization and victories of freedom, history itself are not a matter of once achieved always save. the levers of democracy i met in namibia lived this, children's whose rights and prerogatives have never been in
doubt, or for the most part unaware of it. we are being powerfully reminded how delicate all of it is right now. the stability of tested life is the consistency of words and deeds some of the best of water's edge to consensus on foreign policy. it might seem all of this has been tossed around like pieces on the board but it is important to remember we have seen such tumult before and it is the genius of the architect of our liberty that we can withstand it and emerge the stronger for it. what struck me in namibia with such force and stayed with me ever since is how vital a beacon the united states is and has always been both to those
who are already free and those who still suffer in tier any. it is a solemn obligation we have as americans, let us recognize the shadow of tier any is enveloping parts of the globe and let us recognize as reassert itself in country after country we are by no means immune. i stands today recognizing i had the good fortune during my time in the senate to be 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, chandra morrison, roland foster, ably supervised the team that included people like colleen donnelly, chuck, chris keever, sarah told, emily nelson, brian canfield.
melanie reinhardt. anna grady, brian kennedy, katie jackson, james ln. andrea jones, gary burnett and so many others who drafted substantive legislation and consequential amendments signed into law. my schedulers, office manager and press shop have been asked to explain a lot over the years including ruining myself on deserted islands with people like martin heinrich, forced to explain why i was chased with chris coons. people like celeste goal, megan shepard, megan runyan. and chris philly, jacob mccann
and jason samuels, liz jones, krista windward, jonathan phillips, elizabeth barry and many more. they kept me largely out of controversy if not out of elevators during my time in office, dedicated caseworkers in my state offices helps count with arizonans with immigration to veterans issues to social security. i am frequently stopped as many of my colleagues are at airports and grocery stores and thanks to the good work done by my staff. thank you to buchanan davis, julie castle, melissa martin, mike nelson, jeremy thompson, chelsea, elizabeth lopez and so many others for such dedicated constituent work over the years, i will miss your wise counsel but most of all your friendship.
i would also like a word of thanks to the institutional officers that served the senate so ably. the floor staff. the sergeant at arms and his employees and the capital police who keep us safe in the capital and at times on distant baseball fields. i quite literally so my life to them. thank you. mister president, as i give this last speech i cannot help but look to my maiden speech i gave 6 years ago. and i talked about how 12 newly elected senate freshman in 2012 were invited to the national archives and taken to the legislative vault where we viewed the signed copy of the first the lever enacted by congress as well as other landmark pieces of legislation
and memorabilia. allegiance signed by revolutionary war soldiers witnessed by general washington, documents and artifacts related to the civil war, women's suffrage and the civil rights movements were also on hand. i noticed an affirmation to me, for which our ship has sailed, ship of state has failed for 200 years for many brilliant and inspired individuals at the helm with personalities ranging from mediocre to malevolent but the system of government, i noted that and today serious challenges lie ahead but by any honest reckoning of history and prospects we will notes we confronted and survived more challenges than we now face. hours is a durable system of government designed to
withstand the foibles of those who sometimes occupy these halls including yours truly. i start a new chapter in coming weeks, i am grateful for the privilege of having served with all of you here. it is my hope that those in the body will always are the words of lincoln who said we shall save or lose the last best hope of earth, the way forward, he said, is, quote, plain, peaceful, generous, just, a way that followed, the world will ever applaud and god will forever bless. i yield the floor. [applause]