Reflections on My Career as a Citizen Legislator

In 1994 I came to Washington as a citizen legislator with no prior political experience. I was a doctor who spent 20 years in a healing profession before being elected to the United States Senate.  In my acceptance speech, I pledged to my fellow Tennesseans that my wife Karyn and I would go to Washington for 12 years with a mission to accomplish and then come back home to Tennessee.  And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

Today I look back and believe, as I did then, that every person can make a difference.  But to make a difference one can’t really do it alone.  Without the enduring love of my wife and family, without the support of Tennesseans, without the trust of my colleagues, and without the determination of my staff, nothing I’ve accomplished would have been possible.

As I reflect on my career in the Senate, a few moments will always stand out in my mind:  victories like the $15 billion funding for global HIV-AIDS, prescription drugs for Americas seniors, and confirming John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court.

We have also borne witness to events that changed the face of our nation:  the Capitol shootings, September 11, 2001, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the anthrax and ricin attacks on Capitol Hill, and hurricane Katrina.  But through these challenges, we kept at it the best way we could, with hard work, with heart, and with a lot of hope.

My Dad used to say, “It is a powerful thing to know where you are going in life, but it is equally powerful to know where you have come from.

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