U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today honored Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who will be retiring from the Senate at the end of this year. Thune discussed the significant mark that Alexander will leave on the Senate through his steadfast commitment to the American people for the entirety of his career. Thune also acknowledged that Alexander’s legacy will extend far beyond his many legislative accomplishments – to his role as a mentor, leader, and friend to many of his colleagues, past and present.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the Senate is going to miss Lamar Alexander.
“Listening to his farewell address just now made the fact that he’s leaving all too real.
“And I don’t like to think of the Senate without Lamar.
“He’s a Senate institution and a Senate leader, and his leaving is a loss for this body and for the American people.
“Mr. President, any tribute to Lamar has to mention his incredible career.
“His walk across the state of Tennessee.
“His eight years as Tennessee governor.
“His time as secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush.
“His stint as president of the University of Tennessee system, and his time as a professor at Harvard.
“And then his 18 years in the Senate, marked by significant legislative accomplishments on everything from education to opioids.
“All that, and he makes a plaid shirt look good – although these days, he’s switched to a plaid face mask.
“Mr. President, I first met Lamar when he attended a Lincoln Day Dinner in South Dakota in 1995.
“But I really started to get to know him a little bit when I came to the Senate in 2005.
“Lamar had already been there for a couple of years by that time, and of course he already had an extraordinary career behind him, and I know I was not the only young senator who regarded him as something of a mentor and role model.
“I share a couple of things with Lamar.
“One is the fact that we were both Senate staffers long before we came to the Senate as elected officials.
“And the other is that he and I have both served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference – the messaging and communications office for Republicans in the Senate.
“I succeeded Lamar as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference in 2012.
“He was a tough act to follow – but an inspiring one.
“He did a tremendous job leading our messaging in the conference.
“Lamar has an ability to break down complex subjects and communicate them clearly.
“He can sum up an issue in one succinct phrase.
“Take his summary of the energy issue – We need to “find more and use less.”
“That’s about as clear of a summary of our energy priorities as you can get.
“And I think that ability to really break down complex issues and clearly explain them is one of the reasons he was such a good conference chairman, and one of the reasons he has been so successful legislatively.
“And he has been successful legislatively.
“He’s managed to get things passed that I don’t think anyone thought could get passed in the polarized political environment we’ve been in.
“But Lamar has an ability to bring people together from across the aisle.
“He’s very practical about the business of legislating – he focuses on what it’s actually possible to do – and he finds the common ground, and he gets things done.
“The America COMPETES Act.
“The Every Student Succeeds Act.
“The 21st Century Cures Act.
“The Opioid Crisis Response Act.
“I could go on.
“Lamar has held multiple leadership positions in the Senate – chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senate Republican Conference chairman – but he’s always been a leader whether or not he’s in an official leadership position, simply by virtue of who he is.
“Mr. President, as I said before, Lamar has been a mentor and role model to me – and I know to many others.
“But I also have to mention his personal warmth and hospitality to me and my wife when our daughter was studying at Belmont University in Nashville.
“He and his wife Honey opened their home to us in Nashville.
“They hosted us in the Smokies.
“They took us to a Titans game.
“They went above and beyond, and to this day we are grateful for their warmth and generosity – and for the chance to get to see Lamar in his element, in his beloved Tennessee.
“Mr. President, Lamar has dedicated much of his life to his state and country, and nobody could be more deserving of retirement.
“But I’ll be surprised if he ever fully retires.
“I’m pretty sure that even while sitting on his porch, he’s still going to be dreaming up ways to make our country better.
“Lamar, thank you for your leadership and your mentorship.
“Thank you for being a role model to so many of us.
“And God bless you in your retirement.
“I will miss you.”