Here are the comments of U.S. Sen. Kit Bond made today in Jefferson City. Bond announced he would not seek re-election in 2010, ending 40 years of public service in Missouri:
Mr. Speaker and members of the General Assembly, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. It is an honor to be with you again.
We have had a long partnership working together on issues of importance to Missouri.
Now that the election is over it is time once again to govern. And the new President, the new Congress, and new Governors and state legislatures face more challenges than ever before.
In today’s divisive political and economic environment, with all the problems we face, maybe the election winner is the one who will want the recount!
Much has happened since we were last together. They say a week is a long time in politics. And this fall we saw that a week is also a long time in economics.
Many large companies failed. Other companies had to be rescued by the federal taxpayers in order to prevent total economic collapse. Stocks lost 40 percent of their value before the end of the year. American families lost retirement savings and college savings. Our homes lost value. Unemployment rose nationally to nearly 7 percent.
The political season that just ended was long – too long for my taste – and it was hard. But the people have hired a new team and it is time for the team to work together in the best traditions of non-partisanship and government service.
Americans are looking to President-elect Obama, leaders in Congress and state executive and legislative offices – to all of us – for leadership in this economic crisis and national security challenges. We cannot let them down. We cannot fall back into the old patterns of partisan gridlock and pettiness.
Everyone talks about how partisan things are now, but guess what: it has always been partisan. The question is: can we work together? Partisanship is healthy when it presents Americans with differing ideas about how to solve problems. Partisanship is unhealthy when it leads to division and gridlock.
I have worked in all possible party combinations. I have been in the majority and in the minority. I’ve been fat and I’ve been thin and being thin in the majority is a whole lot better.
Now, of course, we have Democrats controlling both the White House and both Houses of Congress.
But now, more than ever, we need to work together for the common good. While we may wear different partisan labels, are our interests truly that far apart? In a world today where enemies are real – the kind who behead others based on their religion – it is important to remember there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy.
In government there will always be spirited debate and principled debate where the ideas compete and the best ones prevail. There will be issues where people of good conscience cannot come together. But let us never let what cannot be done interfere with what can be done.
Our cause is bigger than ourselves. Events in the world and threats will continue to challenge us in significant ways.
We all need President Obama and Governor Nixon to succeed.
As Ben Franklin said during another grave time in American history, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” We may not be threatened with literal hanging, but are in perilous times.
President Obama’s success will be our success. Governor Nixon’s success will be our success. I am not saying we have to do it on their terms, but dedicated public servants on both sides do have to try to reach a consensus.
I congratulate the Missouri General Assembly and Governor Blunt on the good job you have done. You have made Missouri a favorable place for business to locate and create jobs.
You have managed to keep your fiscal affairs in order. (Unlike Washington and many other states, you actually balance budgets here in Jeff City.)
You have worked hard to develop growth industries in the life sciences and biofuels. I hope you can keep Missouri on this path.
Both parties must also restore the high bar of public integrity. I was elected on a reformer’s platform in 1972; many of you have been elected to clean things up, too; reform is a process that never ends.
Too many in public life today are in it for themselves. Just read the papers. And the people are (rightly) disgusted. Some forget that it is not about us or our next job or best friend, or re-election advantage; it is about the public good.
There is no greater honor than being given the people’s trust, to represent them.
I have done my best to keep faith with my constituents in every vote I have cast and every issue I have worked on.
We must earn the public trust every day.
As I look back, the successes we have achieved working together have always come because people were willing to reach across the aisle for the common good.
Parents as Teachers – Reaching way back, one of my top priorities as Governor was taking the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program statewide. There was nothing more important we could do for education, in my opinion.
The General Assembly at that time was controlled by Democrats. They could have blocked the PAT legislation for partisan reasons, but they did the right thing and put Missouri’s children first.
Since then, the General Assembly has provided funding to prepare even more children for school, and we have worked on the national level to export the program to other states and countries.
There is much more to be done. In Washington, I am working on a bipartisan bill to take PAT national.
Biotechnology – In another area, biotech and life sciences are major growth industries for our state, providing jobs and economic development. In 1982, I recommended that the General Assembly pass a $1 million program called Food for the 21st Century. From that small pilot program biotech research has grown from a few small labs to many of our largest and most respected institutions throughout the state. You and I need to keep supporting work in this area.
Community Health Centers – Another success story that would not have been possible without cooperation between state and federal legislatures is Community Health Center expansion. On the federal level, I supported funding increases of over $1 billion in recent years.
The General Assembly has also kicked in money for their expansion. The beneficiaries are those in underserved areas who can now access health care services like prenatal care, immunizations, and routine screenings that were impossible just a few years ago. We all still have work to do here.
For the next session of Congress and the General Assembly, we will have the opportunity to continue to work together on these and many other issues:
* We will work with President Obama and Governor Nixon to solve the housing and economic crisis.
This will include more effective oversight of the mortgage industry, assistance to struggling homeowners, and a stimulus package to help Missouri rebuild its crumbling roads and bridges, and – I hope – health facilities.
* We will keep American intelligence strong. State and local agencies are important first responders to enemy attacks and disasters. It was not the federal government that did the heavy lifting on 9/11; it was local fire and police departments and even some of our own folks like Missouri Task Force One. It was not the federal government that did the heavy lifting during Hurricane Katrina, it was the National Guard, including our own units from Missouri. Working with and supporting state and local law enforcement and agencies and sharing intelligence is a top priority for me on the Intelligence Committee.
* We will work together to promote Missouri’s products and trade overseas, whether F-15s or agricultural products or creating new transportation hubs in St. Louis and Kansas City to increase trade between Missouri and Asia. Trade is where the new jobs are.
* We will support the Missouri National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team as they improve agriculture in Afghanistan and help Afghan farmers develop skills to support their families. This will help prevent terrorism and increase security here at home.
We can succeed in all of these areas if we do not let the politics get personal — if we respect each other.
Now, on a more personal note, thirty-eight years ago I was first sworn in to statewide office right here in this very building.
Since then I have been honored to work with you and others on the priorities mentioned earlier and many more.
Public Service has been a blessing and a labor of love for me. Little in life could be more fulfilling.
But I have decided my Senate career will end after this, my fourth term.
In 1972, I became Missouri’s youngest Governor. Good friends: I have no aspiration of becoming Missouri’s oldest Senator!
There are many ways to serve; elective office is only one of them.
I do not plan to retire because there are so many interesting and challenging things left to do. I am only retiring from elective office after the 2010 election.
In this coming session, the crises we face require the best possible effort we can give them. I want to address those issues head on, free of the political demands of yet another election.
I will work as hard as I possibly can to make the next two years the best of my career; when that time is up, I will move in a new direction.
I am stating my intentions nearly two years ahead to make way for one of many qualified Missouri leaders to take the baton and continue forward.
This is not an easy decision. As a sixth-generation Missourian, I love our state. Through 40 years in public life I have met many wonderful people. I have visited every county in the state at least once during every term. The people I have met along the way are the reason I ran for public office and the reason I am still here and the reason I find it so rewarding.
* Our National Guard, Active and Reserve troops returning home from Iraq and Afganistan;
* Families of those who have not returned;
* Families devastated by floods and tornados;
* Mallinckrodt workers exposed to radiation;
* Manufacturing workers who have asked for help protecting their jobs;
* Small business owners trying to create more jobs;
* Families concerned about health care, education and the economy;
There are too many people for me to thank adequately:
* First, my patient family: my wonderful wife, Linda, the light of my life; our new family member, my talented, charming daughter-in-law Margaret Bond; and my son Sam, whom I regard as my hero for his service as a Marine ground-intelligence officer in Iraq;
* The General Assembly for your partnership on so many important issues;
* The many people on the state and local level who have generated the ideas for me to pursue;
* All who have worked for me in my office and those who have helped with political activities (hundreds and thousands over the years);
* Some were not born when I started; others have passed on.
I thank my political adversaries for keeping me nimble, and the media for keeping me humble.
Most of all I thank the voters of Missouri, who sent me to Jefferson City three times and to Washington D.C. four times to represent them. There is no greater honor. I am truly blessed to have been entrusted by them with the responsibility of public office.