Political speechwriters enjoy a good farewell address—listening to one is my idea of a good time—and this week we saw departing Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry deliver a very comprehensive one as he left the Senate to become secretary of state. Clocking in at 7,500 words and 50 minutes long, Kerry expressed a lot of opinions about a lot of things. But buried in the middle was this gem:
... I remind everyone here as I take my leave from the Senate, when President George H.W. Bush returned from agreeing to a deficit reduction agreement at Andrews Air Force Base, he wrote in his personal diary that he might well have sealed his fate as a one-term president. He did what he thought was right for the country—and he laid the groundwork for our ability to three times balance the budget at the end of the 1990s. That's courage, and the Senate and the Congress and the country need more of it ...
He's right about that. It's seems like more and more people have come to realize how much political courage President Bush #41 had, and how rare that is these days. I've never been much of a John Kerry fan, but I was struck by how gracious he was—not only about President Bush, but about other Republicans as well.
Kerry reminisced a lot about how much he misses Teddy Kennedy, he also told of his long friendship with John McCain—and then he spoke of other unlikely across-the-aisle friendships like theirs:
Many have stood here, delivering farewell speeches and lamented what became of the Washington where President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill could cultivate an affiliation stronger than party, or a Congress that saw true friendships between senators like Kennedy and Hatch, Inouye and Stevens, Obama and Coburn—the odd couples as they have been dubbed.
I can't tell you why, but I think it's possible this moment may see a turn in the spirit of the Senate. There are new whispers of desire for progress, rumors of new coalitions, and sense of possibility whether it is on energy or immigration. I am deeply impressed by a new generation of senators who seem to have come here determined not to give in to the cynicism but to get the people's business done. I am confident that when today's freshmen take their turns in leaving the Senate, they will be able to tell of new Senators added to that inestimable list of odd couples. And with any luck, by then it will not be odd.
Let's hope he's right that things will change. Not a bad farewell address at all.