Sen. Sam Brownback's Farewell Address

   I say that because I think that is how we work in this place; that we fight on about 20 percent of the issues--and they are important, big issues--and then we cooperate and work together on a whole host of broad bipartisan issues, such as dealing with things like human trafficking. You do that primarily with people who deal from the heart--people such as Paul Wellstone, Ted Kennedy, and Jesse Helms. There are a lot of others, and many people get many things done in this body, but I think it is best when people deal from the heart.

   When they do that, then there is a chance for us to come together around key and heartfelt things. This has been a great body to serve in and I have delighted in being able to do that.

   There is much to be done, much to be done for the country. We have to deal with the creation of jobs in America. We have to deal with our debt and our deficit. We have many issues to deal with. My hope for here, and my hope for our country, is that we go back to the virtues of the ``greatest generation'' and look to them for ways to move forward. It is looking back at the old path of what worked in tough times and moving it forward on the new path.

   I came into this seat after Bob Dole served in this body. He served in this seat. Senator Dole from Kansas is the iconic figure of the World War II generation, of that ``greatest generation.'' He just got out of Walter Reed Hospital. He has been very sick and ill this year. He is coming back, recuperating. I think he is 87 years old this year.

   Most everybody in America would agree about the ``greatest generation.'' They would say that World War II generation hit the mark of what it is to be an American, what it is to sacrifice, what it is to fight for a good cause. They did it with a set of virtues that are timeless, that are known, and I think we have to emulate this time for us to deal with the problems we have now. They were courageous; they were selfless; they were courteous; they were people who would fight for a cause. They were the ones who exhibited charity, thrift. That was certainly known in that generation. I think these are things we have to bring back--hard work, compassion.

   It seems to me, when I think of that generation--and nobody is perfect and that generation is not perfect--those are ideals I saw in practice, whether it was them on the battlefield in World War II or if it was them raising their families at home or if it was their educating of their families, if it was saving for future generations; that is what they did.

   I don't know, if you ask people of that generation, did you do this on purpose, they might say we did or didn't. Most of them would say this was the right thing to do and it is the thing we needed to do. I think it is what we need to do now. I think we need to emulate those virtues of the ``greatest generation'' and apply them to our problems.

   Their problems were more foreign than ours. Ours I believe are more domestic, dealing with our own debt and deficit as a country and as a society and as individuals and individual households; us creating and saving for that next generation in the country and investing to do that, and being selfless and sacrificial in doing that. Building family structure and doing that which is for the good of our families is what we need to do, and that virtue and that old, ancient path they followed, that they said we did because it was a thing we needed to do, I think we have to do the same thing. I hope we will as a country.

   There has been a debate that started in America that I do not agree with, and it is whether this is a special country and whether America is an exceptional land. I for one fully embrace the notion that this is a special place. I believe in American exceptionalism and I have been in many places over the world where you see this in action. I have been in many places in America where you see this in action, where somebody selflessly takes care of other individuals.

   Last night I was at the Korean Embassy and we were talking about what is taking place in North Korea, and one of the people working there at the South Korean Embassy was amazed that people in the United States would care what happens to people in North Korea. I said one of the people with me was saying that is how we look at the world. If somebody else is in bondage, if somebody else is in difficulty, we feel that and we want to help to deal with it. That, to me, is part of what American exceptionalism is all about.

   This is a special place and has a special calling. If it is not us doing it, in many cases around the world it does not get done. I have been in the Sudan and they are not calling on the Chinese to lead Sudan into a freer time period. I have been in other places--in Africa, on the North Korean border. If you are looking for somebody to solve the problem, it is the Americans who go in and do it.

   Our task now is to not only do that around the world, but it is to do it domestically. I think we have to look more and more at ourselves and say we are a special place and I think we have to look at ourselves as the baby boomer generation that I am a part of and say you have to prove and earn your exceptionalism. I think we have to step up to the mark as the ``greatest generation'' did and be willing to serve in a tough way, in a sacrificial way, in the best interests of the future of our country. We have to do it and now is the time to do it.

   I am appreciative that the President had a deficit task force he appointed and that they came up with some ideas, with some of which I agree, with some of which I disagree. But I am glad they started the discussion and the debate. If the figures I have seen are accurate, half the American households receive an entitlement check from the Federal Government--half of the American households. We have a deficit and debt that is structural. It is not based upon one-time war funding, although war funding has contributed to it, but it is structural in that we have more going out than we have coming in. It is time this is dealt with. I think that is part of the message from this last election cycle. The American people are ready to have an intelligent discussion, a difficult discussion of what we are going to do to be able to save ourselves fiscally. Now is the time to do it.

   We actually have the structure set up to do it. With a Republican House, Democratic Senate , Democratic Presidency. This would be the time and the structure to talk about this sort of difficult issue. Our generation should step up and deal with it. I am not going to be here for that discussion and debate, but it is time we have it and it is time we bring back these timeless virtues to deal with our domestic problems the way we have dealt with international problems in the ``greatest generation.''

   As I leave this body, one of the rites of passage is to sign your desk, and I just did that. I did it in pencil. I figure that all of us will fade with time and that signature will fade with time as well. But the things you remember are what you touched and that touched you and the souls that are touched. It is people who deal from the heart who are the ones who touch your life and the ones who touch your soul. I want to express my deep appreciation to my colleagues who have touched my heart. I hope I have been a positive statement to many of them.

   The psalm that comes to mind is one that says: ``And his place knew him no more.''

   The psalmist wrote: ``His place knew him no more.'' After a period of time you sign the desk, you move on, and then you look back and see the signatures in the desk and you don't recognize many of them. The place will know us no more. But the hearts that we touch, the hearts that touch ours, we will remember forever, and I certainly will.

   I thank you and my colleagues in the Senate for letting me serve with you. It has been a great joy. It is a fabulous nation, the greatest Nation on the face of the Earth, and it was an honor to serve here.

   God bless America.

   I yield the floor.

   I suggest the absence of a quorum.

More in Presidential Campaign

Open letter to Sen. Rafael (Ted) Cruz

Read more »