Senator Lamar Alexander on Thursday said on the Senate floor that a “Salute to the Staff” speech should be a new Senate tradition, while praising the work of his “superior” staff over the 18 years of his Senate service.
He said, “We have some important traditions here in the Senate – including the maiden speech, which I made 17 years ago, and the farewell speech which I delivered yesterday, but for me, something is missing.
So I’m here today to make a ‘Salute to the Staff’ speech. And I know that my colleagues agree that their own accomplishments are the result of working with a superior staff so perhaps a ‘Salute to the Staff’ speech might become a new Senate tradition.
“When I say superior staff—here’s what I mean: Superior in being what Senator Howard Baker called an ‘eloquent listener’ – that the constituent on the phone line might be right – or that other staffer in the other office might be right. Superior in courtesy to the Tennesseans for whom we work. Superior in insight. Superior in resolving complex issues and wrapping up the result in a nice package ready for passage, which usually will be at some unexpected moment. And superior in writing and speaking plain English that persuades at least half the people we’re right.
“Also – superior in working well together so that we have a good time while we’re working. Unlike almost every other Senate office, at the suggestion of my chief of staff David Cleary, we created a single team composed of personal office and committee staff, Washington D.C., and state staff.
“The results have been exceptional.
“For eighteen years, I’ve gotten up every morning thinking I will have the opportunity to do something good for our country and have gone to bed most nights thinking that I have. That could not have happened without an exceptional staff.
“In 18 years, some 270 people have worked on my Senate staff – in Jackson, Nashville, the Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, or in Washington, D.C., in my personal office, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee and while serving as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. 153 women and 117 men.
“Our offices have also benefitted from the work of 433 interns. Interns usually work for 1 to 3 months, and they can tell you have real work experiences while they’re with us. Thirty of those staff members – that’s more than 11 percent of our staff over 18 years – began as interns.
“Over those 18 years, our staff has experienced great personal joys: We’ve celebrated the birth or adoption of more than 30 babies; and just as I met my wife Honey while we were both working in the Senate, some of our staffers met their spouses while working on my staff. We have also experienced profound sorrows. And I have had the great fortune of having many staff members who have stayed with my office for a long time.”
Senator Alexander referenced staff accomplishments in his personal office and while he was serving as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
He said, “To close, I'd like to thank the 270 staff members who have given time and energy to our office. There isn’t time to recognize the accomplishments of each one by name but there are many, and I am grateful for each one. I've had the tremendous gift of working with a skilled and dedicated staff. Each person who has served in this office should be proud of what has been accomplished. I've been so fortunate to have you as part of my team.
“In a farewell address yesterday I said that I wake up every day thinking I may be able to do something good for our country and that I go to bed most nights thinking that I have. It is has been a great privilege to be a United States Senator and it has been a great privilege over these 18 years to work with such an exceptional staff.”