By U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe
As I conclude my nearly 40 years in elective office, I want to convey how thankful and blessed I feel to have had the opportunity to serve as your Senator.
It has been difficult to envision saying farewell, just as it was impossible to imagine I would one day become a Senator as I was growing up in Maine. But such is the miracle of America that a young girl of a Greek immigrant and a first-generation American, who was orphaned at the age of nine could, in time, be elected to serve in the greatest deliberative body the world has ever known—and become the third-longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress.
I want to thank you, the people of Maine, for allowing me to be your voice, your vote and your champion for 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and for three terms in the United States Senate. One of the definitions of the word “trust” is “a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence.” And to have had your trust, as you have placed your faith and confidence in me, is an honor of indescribable magnitude. Indeed, serving our magnificent state over the past 34 years in the halls of Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life.
When my legislative journey commenced in the Maine House of Representatives in 1973, I felt then—as I have throughout my tenure in office—that my role as a public servant, above all else, is to solve problems. It’s not about what’s in the best interests of a single political party, but what’s in the best interests of our country.
As I prepare to conclude my service in elective office, I’m not leaving the Senate because I’ve ceased believing in its potential, or I no longer love the institution—but precisely because I do. I’m simply taking my commitment to the Senate in a different direction. I intend to work from the outside, to help build support for those in the institution who will be working to re-establish the Senate’s roots as a place of refuge from the passions of politics, as a forum where the political fires are tempered, not stoked—as our Founding Fathers intended.
We’ve witnessed the heights the Senate is capable of reaching when it adheres to its founding precepts. Consider how we came together in the aftermath of 9-11 to secure our country and help heal our nation. Think about the major debates of the 20th century on such watershed issues as the establishment of Social Security, Medicare or the Civil Rights Act. None of these profound advancements would be as woven into the fabric of our society today if they had been passed simply on party-line votes, rather than the solidly bipartisan basis on which each of them was enacted.
That’s not to say there was some kind of golden age of bipartisanship. And I’m not advocating bipartisanship as some kind of an end unto itself. What I am saying is that we have seen how cooperation in the past has resulted in great achievements, which likely never would have occurred if bipartisanship hadn’t intervened as a means to attaining those most worthy ends.
My concern is that we are losing the art of legislating—but it doesn’t have to be this way. When the history of this chapter in the Senate is written, we don’t want it to conclude that it was here it became an antiquated practice. So as I depart the Senate that I love, I have urged all of my colleagues to follow the Founding Fathers’ blueprint, in order to return the institution to its highest calling of governing through consensus.
For it is only then that the United States Senate can ascend to fulfill the demands of our times, the promise of our nation, and the rightful expectations of the American people.
Again, I want to convey to you what an honor it has been, and will always be, to have served as your Senator. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.