U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the ongoing negotiations in Congress on an additional COVID-19 relief package and expressed the urgent need for relief for the American people. Thune also thanked the COVID-19 vaccine trial volunteers who have bravely put themselves on the line for the sake of this country and recognized the many other quiet heroes who have kept the country running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I am encouraged that we are making progress on coronavirus relief legislation, but we need to finish up and get this bill out the door.
“The virus is surging around the country, and we need to get help to struggling Americans as soon as possible.
“The time for debate is over – let’s get this done.
“Mr. President, we started this week out with a tremendously hopeful moment in our COVID fight – the first vaccinations against this virus.
“It’s incredible that barely a year since we first learned about the virus, we have a vaccine – with more vaccines likely on the way.
“And I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the people who volunteered for vaccine trials.
“We’ve gained a new appreciation this year for a lot of people whose work we might have taken for granted in the past.
“The farmers and grocery store workers and truck drivers who have kept food on our grocery store shelves.
“The delivery drivers – whom we have relied on so heavily this year – who have brought our packages to us so that we can minimize our time at the store.
“All the workers whose jobs can’t be done from home – from electrical workers to trashmen to pharmacists – who get up every day and put on their masks and go out and keep our country running.
“And of course, our nation’s medical professionals, who have faced down this virus with courage and determination – and great compassion.
“There have been a lot of quiet heroes this year, Mr. President.
“And the people who volunteered for vaccine trials should be high on the list.
“A lot of courageous people stepped forward when we needed them.
“And we would not have a COVID vaccine today without their willingness to help.
“Mr. President, Monday was the beginning of what will hopefully be a decisive victory in our COVID battle.
“And we owe that to the hard work and persistence of medical researchers.
“But we owe it also to the vaccine trial volunteers, who enabled researchers to complete the process of developing a safe and effective vaccine.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that the bravery of vaccine volunteers could end up saving hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives.
“I doubt we’ll ever know most of the volunteers’ names.
“But they are heroes of this battle just the same.
“And I am very grateful for the opportunity they’ve given us to defeat this virus.
“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to one of my staffers, Johanna Jablonski.
“Johanna is originally from the small town of Ethan, South Dakota, and is a graduate of – and former basketball star at – Mount Marty College.
“She first joined our team as a summer intern, working in Sioux Falls.
“And a little over six years ago, she moved to Washington, D.C., and became a permanent member of the office.
“She started out as a staff assistant and eventually worked her way up to become my scheduler – and our starting softball pitcher – here in D.C.
“Mr. President, when Johanna first came to my office, she intended to move back home after a year or two.
“But God had plans for her here in D.C.
“About three years ago, she met her husband Anthony at a Boy Scout fish fry at St. Peter’s Church right here on Capitol Hill.
“I know Johanna regards that as a blessing for her, but it was a blessing for our office, too, because we got to keep her around a little longer than she had originally anticipated.
“But now, in a couple of weeks, Johanna will move back home to South Dakota.
“We are all very excited for her.
“But she will be sorely missed.
“Mr. President, I know I don’t have to tell you – or any other senator here – just how important the role of a scheduler is in any office.
“The days here on Capitol Hill are busy.
“Our schedulers are the ones who bring some semblance of organization to otherwise chaotic days, making sure we get to connect with constituents in town, make it to committee hearings and votes on time, get the briefings we need on legislation, and much more.
“Johanna is not only a good scheduler; she is a great one.
“I will miss her patience, her professionalism, and her unparalleled ability to keep the trains running on time.
“But what I – and I think the rest of my staff – will miss most about Johanna is her kindness.
“Johanna has had a positive impact on pretty much every staffer who’s worked for me during her time here, taking the time to get to know each of them on a personal level.
“Whether she’s interacting with an agency head, a constituent, or a fellow staffer, she is always the same – unfailingly gracious, patient, and kind.
“No matter how busy or chaotic the day, Johanna can be counted on to bring a steady hand and a positive attitude.
“She is a woman of faith, and it shows.
“I am sad to see her go.
“But I want to wish her the very best of everything as she embarks on this new chapter.
“Johanna, thank you for all your hard work on behalf of South Dakota.
“You will be missed.”